The premium large car segment in Europe, shows a similar decline to its smaller sister premium midsize, down 8% in the first three quarters of 2013 compared to the same period last year. But wait, the similarities between the segments don’t end here: there’s 3 Germans on top, first foreigner is a Volvo, and maybe they will have left some crumbs for a few brands who refuse to quit struggling, against better judgment.
BMW 5-series keeps the lead, but barely, with Mercedes-Benz E-Class breathing down its neck. Looks like that € 1 billion Mercedes has spent on the recent facelift is paying off, with an additional 3.449 units sold this year. It has also passed Audi A6 by a large margin, which takes the biggest hit in the segment, losing 17.289 sales compared to last year. A6 is has been introduced in 2011, just like BMW 5-series, so they’re equally “fresh”. Although 5-series (F10) design isn’t exactly heart stopping either, at least it can be held apart from the previous model (E60), the one with the polarizing design. Maybe Audi’s Single Frame Grille has come to the end of its shelf life.
Even more so than in the premium midsized car segment, the models are heavily dependent on their home markets: 41% of BMW 5-series sold in Europe carry German license plates, and the percentages are even higher for Audi A6 (45%) and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (45%). For Volvo V70 the numbers are even more worrying: 47% roll their first kilometers on Swedish roads. But wait, Jaguar tops that, with over 62% of XF sales in the UK, you wonder why they even bother to build a left-hand drive version. And just when you thought we hit the limit, unsurprisingly the Italians beat them all, more than 63% of Lancia Thema sold in Europe (and probably anywhere) are sold in their “home” market, as only 786 of 2.144 Lancia Thema have been re-exported out of Italy, down from 934 last year. Does that mean the mafia is expanding its business outside of Italy?
Just when Audi is losing the magic of its Single Frame Grille, Lexus comes up with its own version, the Spindle Grille. GS is already feeling the effect of its facelift, with sales down 12%. But adding insult to injury: it has been passed by Lancia Thema. I wonder how many hara-kiri have been performed in Lexus Europe HQ when they learned their newly redesigned 5-series fighter has been outsold by an Italian large Frankenstein-sedan with American refinement.
And the encouragement trophy of the segment goes to…… Tesla! Model S full electric deliveries have started in September after the European Distribution and Assembly Center in Tilburg, The Netherlands has opened. The batch of vehicles has been registered to customers in Norway and The Netherlands, as both countries offer the highest government incentives on EVs. This has resulted in the amazing effect that the no. 1 selling car in Norway in September 2013 was: Tesla Model S, outselling traditional leader VW Golf by 55 units. Total sales in both countries add up to 986 Model S in the first three quarters of 2013. Let’s see if it can outsell Lexus GS by the end of the year.
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