US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – Premium Large SUV segment

Segment grows slowly, with only Audi Q7, Tesla Model X and Maserati Levante experiencing double-digit growth 

US Large Premium SUV Sales in the premium large SUV segment rose by 3.8% to 151,720 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall sales in 2017 rose by 1.6% to 518,902. As a result, this remains the largest from amongst all premium SUV segments, though the but the lead it has to the premium mid-sized SUV segment continues to shrink. Moreover, this gap is likely to shrink further still in 2018, which will bring few new models – the new Porsche Cayenne should hit the market soon, but the new BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE probably won’t arrive until the end of the year.

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.


  • Lexus RX, the undisputed segment leader, had a so-so year, only managing positive sales growth in one quarter, much like the third-placed Acura MDX
  • When combined together sales of BMW X5 and X6 were enough to net the twins second place in the rankings, ahead of the fourth-placed Mercedes-Benz GLE (for which Mercedes-Benz does not break out the sales of the Coupe model), with both BMW and M-B recording a 5% combined sales growth – not bad for models whose successors will be revealed within the year
  • The model usually sitting at the end of the Top 5, the aging Infiniti QX60, saw its sales fall by 4%, and was nearly overtaken by the new Audi Q7, which experienced the highest year-on-year growth from among all established models, and may yet enter the Top 5 in 2018, as it did in the second half of 2017

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

  • By contrast the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7’s contemporary and close rival, was unable to recover from a poor start to 2017, when it lost over 40% of sales in the first quarter, and as a result saw its year-on-year sales shrink, and fell in the standings not just behind the Q7, but also behind the Lincoln MKX
  • Tesla Model X had another good year, seeing its sales grow by 17%, enough to overtake the Range Rover Sport in the standings, and placed just behind the Lexus GX, the RX’s larger, tougher sibling (known in other markets as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado)
  • Porsche Cayenne saw its sales fall by 14% in 2017 as buyers await the new model, while the market rallied to the discontinued-for-2018 Infiniti QX70, raising its sales by over 50% in the first three quarters before stocks ran out in Q4’17
  • The new Land Rover Discovery finally arrived in the market, resulting in a 60% rise in sales in Q4’17, although that was not enough to make up for the sales declines the outgoing model experienced earlier in the year
  • Finally, the Maserati Levante has its first full year on the market, placing it almost at the back of the rankings, but still not far from direct competitors such as BMW X6

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