Sales of premium large SUVs in Europe declined in 2018 for the second year in a row, after three consecutive years of explosive growth during which 100.000 annual sales were added. In the last two years, the segment has lost 33.000 sales again as volume is back to 255.000 sales, down 6% on 2017. The entire top-5 is down for the year and only 4 out of the 18 remaining players in this class improve their volume this year. The BMW X5 holds on to the segment lead by the skin of its teeth, less than 250 sales ahead of the Volvo XC90. For the X5, this is its fifth consecutive year on top of the ranking, and for the XC90 it would have been its first win ever, if only it could have found those 250 extra buyers. The X5 is being replaced in 2019, which means it’s likely to storm back ahead again, and this was the Volvo’s only chance for a while. The Mercedes-Benz GLE in third place will also be renewed in 2019 and may threaten the X5 and XC90 to climb either one or two spots once it reaches full availability. The last time the GLE (or M-Class) finished on top of its class was in 2013. The Range Rover Sport climbs one spot to #4 with sales down just 5% which allows it to move past the Audi Q7, down to places into 5th as the WLTP affected sales of some of its versions, and the introduction of the Q8 didn’t help either. Its sibling model Volkswagen Touareg did better with an increase of 15% thanks to the new, third generation. Still, sales are far below the peak of the namplate’s first generation in 2004 and 2005 when it sold over 40.000 copies in Europe.
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The third model from the same platform is the Porsche Cayenne, up 16% in the first year of the third generation, but below both of its siblings. The Cayenne sold well in the first part of the year, averaging 1.555 monthly sales until August, but the WLTP ruined sales of its most popular version, the plug-in hybrid, because the more realistic range and fuel efficiency killed most of its incentives. Sales averaged just 343 units per month after September 1st. The Land Rover Discovery already loses volume in its second full year of sales of the new generation, which hasn’t been very well received from an aesthetic point of view. It barely outsold the Range Rover, itself down 11%, and the Tesla Model X, which improved 2% to consolidate its top-10 position. The BMW X6 is down 10% and distances the Jeep Grand Cherokee, down 22%. The Audi Q8 lands at #13 ahead of the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. The Q8 also outsold the X6 in the last quarter, so it looks set to lead the SUV-Coupe subcategory in 2019. The GLE Coupe lost 30% of its sales and is down into 15th place. The Lexus RX lost 6% so kept its share of the segment stable. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, thanks to its all-new generation, is up 11% to top 6.000 annual sales for the first time ever. 2018 was the fourth consecutive year of improved sales for the nameplate, and the third consecutive year of record sales. It even outsold the larger Mercedes-Benz GLS, down 22%. Similar rates of decline were noted for the Maserati Levante and Bentley Bentayga, the latter also hampered by the WLTP regulations. Its platform sibling Lamborghini Urus lands at #20 with 290 sales in the second half of the year. We also welcome the Rolls Royce Cullinan to the ranking this year, with 67 sales in the last three months.
In 2019 there’s a lot of news in this segment, as BMW will renew the X5 and introduce a larger model called X7 to rival the Range Rover and GLS. The X6 will be renewed as well. Audi will bring the electric e-Tron quattro. Mercedes-Benz has already revealed the new generation GLE and will also update the GLS. Porsche is working on a Cayenne Coupe, but that may not arrive until 2020, and so will the new generation Land Rover Defender.
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