Sales of midsized luxury cars in Europe continue their downward trend in the first quarter of 2019, with deliveries down 3% to just over 160.000 units. And if it hadn’t been for the thunderous arrival of the Tesla Model 3, the segment would have been down by 14%. In March alone, Tesla delivered more Model 3’s than any midsized namplate except for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and that also includes all mainstream midsized models like the VW Passat. However, this is not reflective of the long-term potential of the Model 3, as these figures reflect deliveries of cars ordered over the past few years. Tesla registrations will continue to fluctuate greatly over the course of the year as customer deliveries are dependent on the arrival of the ships that deliver the cars to Europe. The American EV brand may make some headlines as it may seem to outperform its European rivals, and the huge amount of pre-ordered vehicles is by all means an impressive feat, but in our analysis of the registration figures, we’ll always try to compare apples to apples. For the first quarter, the C-Class is still in command despite a 6% drop in sales, as its closest rival Audi A4 loses almost a quarter of its volume, as well as 4,6 percentage points of share, as some gasoline models still haven’t been available due to the WLTP standards introduced last September. Taht allows the BMW 3-series to close the gap to the #2 spot, despite seeing its sales slide 8% as the new generation is just arriving in showrooms. With Audi’s availability issues apparently solved (sales were down “just” 7,5% in March), an upcoming facelift for the A4 and BMW’s new 3-Series picking up steam, the battle on the podium will be intense for the rest of the year, especially with the wild card Model 3 that could crash the party as well.
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 Volvo S60/V60 are back up into 5th place with sales up by almost a quarter thanks to the new generation V60 station wagon, while the updated S60 sedan will follow shortly, helping the Swedish brand continue its strong form in this segment. The Audi A5 and BMW 4-series are both down by big numbers, the former still due to reduced availability because of WLTP standards, the latter as it’s due for a redesign as well, following the 3-Series. The Volkswagen Arteon is hit even harder with a loss of 35% despite still being relatively fresh. But the biggest loser in the top-10 is the Alfa Romeo Giulia, down by almost half as it too has struggled with the new fuel efficiency testing cycle. That allowed the Jaguar XE to close back in to the Alfa, but remember that the XE is helped by strong March volume thanks to its dependence on the UK market. The Kia Stinger is up 31% but remains a niche player, although it does manage to outsell the Lexus IS.
When looking at brand sales to balance off the fact that Mercedes-Benz sells a coupe and convertible under the same C-Class name whereas Audi and BMW use different names for these body styles, Audi still sells the most midsized luxury cars at just over 39.200 sales of the A4 and A5 combined, but loses the most at -25%. That allows Mercedes-Benz to close the gap to just 600 sales, with 38.600 combined sales for the C-Class. That means BMW is leapfrogged and down into 3rd place with 37.600 combined sales of the 3-Series and 4-Series, down 13%.
In 2019 we’ll welcome the new S60 sedan as well as the station wagon version of the new 3-Series. With the update of that nameplate finished, BMW will follow up with a renewed 4-Series, while killing off the 3-Series GT. We expect facelifts for the Audi A4, Jaguar XE and Lexus RC plus some technical updates for the Giulia.
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