After 5 years of small declines, sales of premium large cars in Europe rebound sharply in 2017, bouncing back to their 2012 level and back above 400.000 units again after 3 years below that threshold. A 13% gain outperforms the overall market, growing the share of the segment to 2,7%, up from 2,5%. In both the third and fourth quarters the segment growth even accelerated to 19% over 2016. The redesigned BMW 5-series is unable to knock the Mercedes-Benz E-Class off its throne, but keep in mind the latter is helped by coupe and convertible versions which the 5-Series doesn’t have. So in terms of pure sedan and station wagon sales, the battle will be much closer or could even fall in favor of the BMW. Both models gain volume with impressive numbers and increase their combined share of the segment by 7,7 percentage points to 56,2% which means that more than half of every car sold in this class is either a E-Class or a 5-Series. Most of the share gains for these two come from their closest rival Audi A6 which is down by 16% to lose 6,3 percentage points of share as it is due for an all-new generation in 2018. Expect the A6 to suffer even more in the first half of this year before rebounding when customer deliveries of the new model start, but that won’t be enough for the nameplate to return to the top of the chart where it also stood in 2015 and from 2005 to 2007. Perhaps again in 2019?
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With over 15.000 sales in the third quarter, the Volvo S90/V90 is closing in on the A6 with a gap of just 2.600 sales and the Swede even outsold the German in December, but is so far unable to break the German domination. Still, with the new model Volvo holds more than 13% share of the segment, a figure the brand last saw in 2010. Looking at the sales figures, Volvo has almost connected with the top-3 and is way ahead of the closest rival from behind, outselling the Tesla Model S by almost a 3,5-to-1 ratio. The Model S sets a new annual volume record with sales up 39% (boosted by sales more than doubling in the last quarter on high December demand in Norway, which will be balanced by a slow January for the model). This allows the American all-electric sedan to pass the Jaguar XF which is down 22% despite the addition of the Sportbrake station wagon version. The Audi A7 will also be updated in 2018 and is down by a third, while the BMW 6-series benefits in the last quarter (sales more than doubled as it sold almost as much as the XF) from the renaming of the 5-Series GT to 6-Series GT with the new generation, as production of the coupe version has already stopped and the convertible and Gran Coupe will follow soon. The Mercedes-Benz CLS is down by more than a third as the new generation will arrive in early 2018. The Maserati Ghibli and Lexus GS take big hits to their already low volumes.
Besides the new CLS (which will no longer get a Shooting Brake version), and the aforementioned A6 and A7, we won’t see the 6-Series Gran Coupe again, while the coupe and convertible models will be renamed 8-Series to compete with Mercedes’ similar S-Class versions. We may see the new Infiniti Q70 in Europe in 2018, but don’t expect that model to suddenly surge the charts. Lexus IS expected to discontinue the GS after this generation.
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