The premium compact car segment in Europe remains the place to be for premium automakers, as the segment grew another 24% in the first three quarters of 2013 compared to the same period last year, totaling over 550.000 units in 9 months, or over 700.000 units when combined with the premium small car segment. New introductions and model changes of the big players make this a very dynamic segment.
The need to look twice to distinguish the new generation from the old generation, hasn’t hurt sales of Audi A3 at all, which has helped it steal the top spot from BMW 1-series. The small Beemer has also been redesigned, but the designers were to obsessed with ensuring it would be a good car, they forgot to make it look any better than the previous model.
Mercedes-Benz has finally got the memo that a premium compact car is bought by accountants, consultants and law firm apprentices instead of elderly people, which caused a 180° U-turn from the MPV-like old A-Class to the sporty hatchback new generation. As a result, the Stuttgart-based brand has finally caught up with its rivals out of München and Ingolstadt in this segment as well. Those in need of a higher seating position will be served by B-Class, while the hip and trendy are now welcome at Mercedes-Benz as well for a mini CLS, called CLA.
With the 4-door version of A3 in showrooms now, looking to steal some sales of CLA, but more likely just adding to them, or stealing them from big sister A4, A3 will surely increase its lead in 2014.
Newcomer Volvo V40 is a runaway success straight out of the box, thanks to fuel efficient engines. Surprisingly its biggest market is not its home market Sweden, but the small, but traditionally Volvo-minded Netherlands (the 1996-2004 S40/V40 were produced in The Netherlands), thanks to a tax break related to its fuel efficiency. With 7.334 sales it is selling more than double the volume of Audi A3 (3.604 sales) and BMW 1-series (2.668 sales) and more than triple of Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2.220 sales).
Both Italians Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Lancia Delta, arguably among the better looking cars in the segment, can’t keep up with the German invasion, most likely a result of more expensive lease rates, caused by lower resale values compared to the Big 3. And they could use an update someday soon as well, please.
Lexus enjoyed some short-lived success with CT200h, but selling a reskinned Prius with a posh interior is not enough to play with the big boys in this continent. The oversized hourglass-shaped grille Lexus is slapping on all its models these days is actually not as out-of-place on the compact hatchback as it is on the sedans, but CT has had its shot and failed, don’t expect a facelift to save its face.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
One step smaller, Audi has completed its mission, A1 has outsold all 5 non-SUV versions of Mini (that’s excluding Countryman and Paceman) against all odds. BMW is hoping for the next generation Mini, due in showrooms in 2014 to regain the crown, but I wonder how many more derivatives they can come up with until their chicken runs out of golden eggs. Moreover, as pedestrian safety becomes increasingly important, making car noses longer and higher, effectively killing one of Mini’s design features.
Alfa Romeo MiTo suffers from being an Alfa Romeo, and as a result it is totally ignored by Sergio Marchionne, even though it is craving for a facelift.
For comparison, Citroën DS3 racked up 52.274 sales in the period, an increase of 7% on last year. It is included in the Subcompact segment sales.
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