The premium midsized car segment in Europe, let’s call it the account manager segment, is declining much slower than its non-premium counterpart, down just 8% in the first three quarters of 2013 compared to the same period last year. The new generation of evergreen (or should I say evergrey?) BMW 3-series is to thank for that, increasing its lead over number 2 in the segment from 3.380 units to a crushing 57.065 units. That is including 1.335 sales of the 3-series Coupe replacement BMW 4-series. To be fair, adding A5 sales to A4, BMW would still lead by 16.488 Einheiten.
With every chance to get some flavour into this segment effectively killed by the all-conquering success of glutton BMW 3-series, only its Bavarian rivals Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class manage to sell in volumes worth mentioning, while all others just painfully fail. The German market can be thanked for this, as BMW 3-series, Audi A4/A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class respectively sell 34%, 36% and a whopping 43% of their total European sales at home.
Wait for Mercedes-Benz to introduce the new generation C-Class, which will take some cues from little sister CLA in the styling department, to regain some of the ground lost and increase the German’s stranglehold on the segment even further.
Volvo S60 and V60, with a station wagon ratio of almost 79%, are not as dependent on their home market, with Sweden taking just over 26% of their sales, but that market is less than 10% of the German market: 193.065 vs. 2.217.019 in the first 9 months of 2013. Besides Sweden, S60 and V60 are also outselling their German rivals in Norway.
Lexus has increased its market share of the segment from less than half a percent in 2012 to a mammoth 0,8 percent in 2013, thanks to the new generation and a hybrid version in showrooms now. Lexus has taken some lessons from Audi, which introduced the infamous Single Frame Grille 10 years ago to a more commercial than esthetic success. Now Lexus is introducing a variation to Audi’s SFG, making it an even larger part of the car’s nose, pinching it into an hourglass shape and calling it Spindle grille, hoping it will help IS finally be taken as a serious competitor in the segment. I bet all it has done is make some German board member’s fat belly shake from laughter. “Helmut, zhey are still not giving up, and look what zhey have come up wizh now, it looks like a stack of schnitzels, hahahaha!”
So at least Nürburgring-bred Cadillac ATS can dent the German Übermacht? Or what about Infiniti’s G-series replacement Q50? Think again. Both sold less than 100 units, and may grab a handful more on their way to join Alfa Romeo 159 and Saab 9-3, which are already swimming with the fishes.
Granted, Infiniti Q50 is actually a strikingly good looking car, it is available with a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine and it has some good credentials as a driver’s car thanks to rear wheel drive, but it just doesn’t have the selling power of a huge dealer network, nor the brand awareness, never mind any resale value worth mentioning to bring it into the big league. Nice try, but you just can’t beat the Germans on their own turf.
Jaguar is going to give it another shot, however. At the end of 2014 Jaguar will introduce its Q-type, a small rear wheel drive sedan, designed to help forget the mercilessly failed X-type. Considering recent Jaguar design, it shouldn’t be hard to do that, but don’t expect it to show the Germans who’s boss. The British will go crazy about it, but the rest of Europe, especially the Germans, might take a second look at it, and then just shrug and order another 3-series.
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