The limousine segment in Europe has been re-energized in the third quarter of 2017 with a 21% increase in sales after small single digit improvements in the first half of the year. Almost all of the growth in the segment can be attributed to a single model, as only two other nameplates improve while 5 out of the 8 losers are down with double digits. The big winner is the Porsche Panamera with sales up almost six-fold on the previous generation last year, helped additionally by the launch of the Panamera S e-Hybrid in June, which accounted for 60% of the model’s sales since. That’s significantly higher than the brand’s own expectations of 10% to 15%. Part of the explanation for its success lies in tax benefits that some countries hand out to buyers of plug in vehicles. For example, the hybrid’s share of Panamera sales in Belgium was above 90%, and 70% in France. Balancing it out, about 25% of its sales in its largest market Germany are partly electrified. As a result, the Panamera was the best seller in July and in 2nd place of the segment in the third quarter ahead of the BMW 7-series but still behind the traditional leader Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Keep in mind that S-Class sales also include the Coupe and Convertible versions, so in pure sedan sales the 7-Series is on top of the ranking.
Worryingly for BMW is that the 7-Series is already down 10% in Q3 and lost 9% this year even though it’s one of the freshest models in the segment. These 3 dominant players improve their share of the segment by 5 percentage points to over 81%. A new Audi A8 is coming up soon but the current generation surprisingly gains 7% on last year, but is still in a distant 4th place year-to-date with less than half the volume of the #3. The Jaguar XJ is down 14% in the third quarter and -12% for the year, while the Bentley Flying Spur loses 8% after a 21% gain in Q2, bringing its YTD figure down to +24% and keeping it ahead of the Maserati Quattroporte which loses 40% in Q3. The Bentley Mulsanne also loses 38% in the third quarter, bringing its YTD loss to 18%, while the Rolls Royce Ghost is relatively stable. The Aston Martin Rapide shows a sudden return of form with a 33% gain in Q3 (7 additional sales), and the Rolls Royce Phantom is being phased out with the new generation arriving next year.
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