After outgrowing the overall market in 2016, the premium compact car segment in Europe appears to plateau in the first quarter of 2017 with sales down 1% in a market that continues to grow (+7,8%). The dominant segment leader is in trouble, as the Audi A3 loses 12% of its volume in the same period last year, while its nearest rivals continue to grow. The A3’s top spot is not yet in jeopardy, as the model still has an 11.000-unit advantage over its nearest rival, but its share of the segment has dipped to an all-time low of 20%. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class holds on to 2nd place by the skin of its teeth, as the BMW 1-series grows 16% to come within 300 sales of the A-Class. It will be interesting to see how the next generation 1-Series will perform when it gets front-wheel drive and loses the 6-cylinder option, making the current generation the last hatchback in its segment with those two features which are so important to enthusiasts but much less so for the average buyer. It will trade those qualities for more generic styling and more interior room.
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If we look at total brand sales in this segment, BMW’s four models have reclaimed the lead from Mercedes-Benz’ three models as both brands grow with low single digits, but Audi is distanced with sales of its single model down 12%. Volvo is best of the rest, as usual in Europe, with the facelifted V40 up 4% to distance the Mercedes-Benz B-Class and CLA. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is now starting to show its age with a loss of 19% as last year’s minor facelift has had very limited impact. In 9th place we find the Mini Clubman station wagon, and the top-10 is completed by the BMW 2-series Coupe & Convertible. The electric BMW i3 gains significantly thanks to its upgraded battery with improved range, to handily outsell the DS4. The unsuccessful Infiniti Q30 only outsells the already 6-year old Lexus CT.
The premium small car segment is down 2% as two of the five models show double digit losses. Segment leader Mini (including the 4-door and convertible versions) consolidates its leadership with an increase of 17% to increase its share of the segment to a dominant 40%. The perennial #2 of the segment Audi A1 loses 19% and as a result is outsold by a model that’s almost exclusively sold in Italy: the Lancia Ypsilon. Only 167 units of the Ypsilon were sold outside of its home market. The segment ranking is a reflection of the age of the models, as the Mini is by far the freshest of the bunch, as the current generation is just 3 years old. The A1 was first introduced in 2010 and the current generation Ypsilon was launched in 2011. The DS3 in fourth place was launched in 2009 and the Alfa Romeo MiTo is already 9 years old without any major updates but it still manages to gain 12% on the first quarter of 2016.
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