US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – Premium Full-size SUV segment

Sales of new Lincoln Navigator soar in the fourth quarter as segment grows slowly

Sales in the premium full-size SUV segment fell by 7.0% to 34,507 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall sales in 2017 rose by 2.5% to 126,559. The segment remains slightly ahead of the premium compact SUV segment, but with the latter growing at double-digit rates it seems likely it will become the smallest among the premium SUV sectors in 2018, unless the new Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX80, as well as the upcoming Cadillac Escalade can somehow bring back the era when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Note: after lumping really models as disparate as the Lincoln MKX and Bentley Bentayga under the Premium Large SUV banner for a long time, we have decided to split the segment into two: premium large SUV and premium full-size SUV. The difference between the two will hopefully be self-evident, but we’re aiming for the latter segment to capture models that are ahead of the more homogenous premium large SUV pack either through their size (Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus LX), price (Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz G-Class), or both (Bentley Bentayga). Let us know what you think of this new split.


  • The Cadillac Escalade/Escalade ESV remained the leaders of the segment, despite being the only two models to see their sales fall in 2017
  • This allowed the facelifted-for-2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS to narrow down its deficit to the leader, thanks to a robust 6% growth
  • There was a close fight for third in the segment, with Range Rover poised to overtake Infiniti QX80, but the British car was unable to sustain its challenge in the fourth quarter, when a 30% decline in sales saw it finish fourth once again

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

  • After losing sales for the first three quarters the new, very-well-received Lincoln Navigator saw its sales grow by 40% in the fourth quarter, allowing the model to outsell Range Rover, which sets up an interesting showdown for 2018
  • Sales of Lexus LX and Mercedes-Benz G-class grew robustly in 2017, an impressive feat for the German, given that the new, significantly-improved model is about to hit the market
  • At the back Bentley Bentayga is showing signs of weakness – while its 2017 sales figure was up 30% on 2016, when its sales began, it lost 27% of its sales in both the third and fourth quarter of 2017; it will be interesting to see whether the incoming V8 petrol and plug-in hybrid models will manage to lift its fortunes in the US

Note: clicking on the model names in legend turns the display for that model on/off; data is displayed from 1990 onwards, but starts earlier – access previous years using slider on bottom