Sales of compact luxury cars in Europe are down 4% in the first half of 2019 to just over 400.000 units. Only four nameplates manage to improve their sales in this period while all the others are down by double digits. After storming to the top of the chart in 2018 for the very first time ever, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class distances its competition further this year, with a 41% increase in deliveries and a 7,5 percentage points improvement of share, as it now holds almost a quarter of the segment sales by itself. That leaves the former segment leader Audi A3 down into 2nd place with a loss of 12% and the BMW 1-series in third place with a loss of 2% just when a new generation arrives in showrooms. Mercedes-Benz has a second model that improves its sales in this class, with the B-Class up 5% thanks to its all-new third generation, moving past its direct rival BMW 2-series Active/Gran Tourer, and this is before a first-ever 7-seater version of the B-Class is launched. The 2-Series vans are down 22% despite relatively successful sales of the plug-in hybrid version, which makes up about 20% of the model’s sales. In sixth place we find the third Mercedes-Benz model with the CLA, down 12% as the new, second generation is just arriving in showrooms. Undoubtedly, the CLA will end the year in the positive when deliveries of the new model, including the Shooting Brake version, start to gain traction.
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off
The success of the new A-Class, B-Class and CLA mean that Mercedes-Benz obliterates its rivals in this segment of the market with combined sales up 19% and a share of 39,4% of the segment, compared to BMW’s 9% decline and a share of 29,7% and Audi’s 12% decline and 17,9% share. That means the German Big 3 together command 87% of this segment in Europe, and that’s without accounting for the Mini Clubman, which really belongs to the BMW Group as well. And with a continued onslaught of new or updated models (next-gen 1-Series and CLA, B-Class 7-seater, next-gen A3), their dominance is only poised to grow. Volvo has already stopped production of its V40 hatchback and the Swedes realize they won’t be able to compete directly and in order to lure buyers they’re developing a more crossover-like model that will be different from the already existing XC40. The current V40 is down 22% as the model is in sell-off mode. The BMW i3 is catching up to the mainstream models with a 40% sales increase and moves into the top-8, passing the recently updated Mini Clubman, up 29% in the second quarter to return into the positive for the first half, and BMW 2-series Coupe & Convertible, down 35%, as well as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, down 45%.
As mentioned, the orderbooks are already open for the new 1-Series and CLA and a new A3 is also expected for later this year. BMW will launch the front-wheel drive 2-Series Gran Coupe.
In the first quarter of 2019, sales of small premium cars were slightly up after three consecutive years of declines, but in the second quarter that growth stalled again as sales declined 13%, leading to a 5% decline in the first half of 2019, to just over 150.000 sales. With the withdrawal of two nameplates from the segment, it’s now reduced to just three remaining models, of which two improve their sales. The segment leader Mini (including the 2-door, 4-door and convertible versions) shows a 17% decline in sales in the second quarter, to drop into the red for the first half while its two remaining rivals are closing in. The new generation Audi A1 is slightly down in Q2 as well, but still improves 6% so far this year, but the surprising big winner is the Lancia Ypsilon, a model that most of you outside of Italy didn’t even think was still around. The Yp is only still sold in its home market and is Lancia’s only remaining model. It’s not even clear if and when a replacement is planned or that FCA will keep the car around for as long as it continues to sell well before killing off the brand entirely. The sudden revival of the Ypsilon could be related to the end of production of the Alfa Romeo MiTo, with Italians eager for a small luxury car from a domestic brand having only one option left. The DS3 has also been shut down and replaced by the DS3 Crossback, a crossover.
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