Sales of compact luxury cars in Europe are down 6% in the first quarter of 2019 to just over 200.000 units. Only three nameplates manage to improve their sales in this period while all but 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 34% increase in deliveries and a 7,4 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 3% and the BMW 1-series in third place with a loss of 11% as a new generation will arrive later this year. That will be the end of the 1-Series as the only rear-wheel drive hatchback in the class as it will shift to the front-wheel drive platform of the 2-Series Active Tourer, X1 and Mini hatchback, among others. 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 29% 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 15% 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 16% and a share of 38,7% of the segment, compared to BMW’s 16% decline and a share of 29,6% and Audi’s 3% decline and 19,3% share. That means the German Big 3 together command 87,5% 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), their dominance is only poised to grow. Volvo has already postponed the replacement of its V40 hatchback because the Swedes realized 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 27% as the model is starting to show its age. The BMW i3 is catching up to the mainstream models with a 42% sales increase and moves into the top-8, passing the Mini Clubman, down 13% and BMW 2-series Coupe & Convertible, down 40% as well as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, down 41%.
Sales of small premium cars are slightly up after three consecutive years of declines. A 3% increase to just under 79.000 sales in the first quarter is achieved despite the withdrawal of two nameplates from the segment, which is now reduced to just three remaining models, all of which improve their sales. The segment leader Mini (including the 2-door, 4-door and convertible versions) shows a 5% increase in sales to improve its share of the segment to 43,5% but its two remaining rivals are closing in. The new generation Audi A1 improves 15% to just over 29% share 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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