The midsize segment in Europe as a whole saw a sharp decline of 26% in the first three quarters of 2013 compared to the same period last year. This is a result of a clear shift towards premium models in this segment. In fact, if we would combine the premium midsize with this segment, BMW 3-series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-class would hold the 1st, 3rd and 4th place of the combined segment respectively.
Segment leader Passat has increased its market share slightly, as sales are off just under the segment average at -22%, as does its stretched-but-cheaper sister Skoda Superb (-21%), moving up to 5th place, passing Toyota Avensis (-39%). Biggest losers in the top 10 are Opel Insignia (-31%), Peugeot 508 (also -31%), Ford Mondeo (-34%), Toyota Avensis (-39%), which desperately needs a hybrid powertrain in order to stay competitive against the diesels, and Citroën C5 (-34%), suffering the most from the shift towards premium. It leaves you wondering how profitable Insignia and Mondeo must be, with sales divided between no less than three different body styles (sedan, liftback and station wagon), where all others make do with two and keeping in mind sales in this segment are traditionally skewed towards station wagons anyways.
Mondeo still holding on to 4th position, despite the model change long overdue, is quite a miracle and can be attributed to huge discounts by the brand. The new generation is still a full year ahead, because the Genk, Belgium factory is being shut down and production of the new generation will move to Spain. In the meantime, the striking design is giving Ford the long-awaited success in the mid-sized sedan market in the US, under the Fusion nameplate. And in China, the new gen Mondeo, which has been on sale for two months, has already sold more units than the outgoing model in nine months. Ford really should put it out of its misery and should even consider importing it from China or the US until the factory in Spain is up to speed.
Look for Mazda6 to move up a notch by year end, passing Toyota Avensis as well, thanks to the new generation, which has moved sales up already 75% on last year, and climbing. Citroën DS5 (-9%) is breathing down the neck of sister C5, thanks to the Hybrid4 fuel efficient model. Renault Laguna just can’t seem to get rid of the low-quality image that its predecessor caused, so the next generation deserves a new name as well. But honestly, I think Renault should take notes from sister brand Nissan, which has shunned the ill-performing Almera and Primera a decade ago in favor of the hugely successful Juke and Qashqai. With (Grand) Scenic covering the bases in the family side of the mid-sized segment, they owe it to their legacy to come up with a jaw-dropping, segment-shaking whatever-it-is-but-not-another-sedan. They are planning to do something similar with Espace in the Large MPV-segment. Yes, it would be a huge gamble, but one that just might pay off. That still beats the odds of the certain failure they will strike with just another Laguna also-ran.
Seat Exeo doesn’t fool anyone into buying a previous-model Audi A4 with a bad nose job, because nobody likes to keep hearing over and over again why they should have bought a used A4 instead. Subaru Legacy and Honda Accord are just too expensive and the fact that the strikingly good looking Kia Optima new generation is already past its peak, is a telling sign Kia is not yet an established player in Europe beyond small cars and SUVs, as opposed to the US.
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