US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – Sports Large and Exotics segment

Chevrolet Corvette leads segment decline, despite Q4’17 sales surge from Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GTUS large sportsSales in the sports large and exotics segment returned to growth in the fourth quarter (sales up 1.2% to 13,709), although overall sales in 2017 still fell by 7.0% to 51,278. Once you exclude Chevrolet Corvette, which accounts for more than half the sales in the segment, the outlook is much more rosy, with Q4’17 growth of 20.0% and a year-on-year growth of 4.2%. However, while the 2017 performance was driven by new models such as Lexus LCAcura NSX and the facelifted Porsche 911 coming fully on stream, so far it looks as though the only truly new model in the new year will be the Bentley Continental, with no replacements on the immediate horizon for the aging Mercedes-Benz SL, Maserati GranTurismo or Nissan GT-R.


  • While Chevrolet Corvette remains the undisputed champion of this segment, its sales fell yet again in 2017 (though, it has to be said, from a very high level – see historic chart below) – what will be interesting now is whether Chevrolet will really replace the front-engined model with the mid-engined car it’s been testing (think: Ferrari Daytona being replaced by the Testarossa), or whether that will be marketed alongside the current Corvette (personally, I can’t imagine the company turning its back on the concept that has worked like a treat for them for over half a century, but I guess weirder things have happened)
  • Sales of the facelifted all-turbo Porsche 911 finally picked up in the second half of 2017, with Q4’17 growth topping 30% – this helped the model recover to record a small 1% gain in 2017, incidentally the same figure recorded by the third-placed Jaguar F-Type
  • The aging Mercedes-Benz SL came under attack by the well-received Lexus LC, but managed to hold onto fourth spot despite being outsold by the Japanese model in Q2 and Q3 (though not, it must be said, Q4)
  • After seeing its sales fall by double-digits in the first half of the year Mercedes-AMG GT mounted quite the return in the second half, with Q4’17 sales up 164% – clearly the light facelift and newly re-shuffled variants resonate with buyers

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

  • The aging Maserati GranTurismo and Bentley Continental both saw their sales fall by just over 20%, but while the new Continental is on its way and should go down well with buyers thanks to its much-improved looks, the GranTurisimo will have to do battle for at least another year or two, if it even gets a direct successor (it could meet the fate of the Jaguar XK, which was replaced by the smaller F-Type in Jaguar’s lineup)
  • The new Audi R8 is struggling to find buyers the way the first generation model did, not helped by only being available as a V10 – while its sales were up significantly in the first half of the year, the model was already almost 40% down in the second half of the year; the rumored turbo-V6 model could not arrive soon enough
  • By comparison, customers are really lapping up the smaller McLaren Sport Series, with the model handily outselling the R8 in the second half of 2017
  • After a final “hurrah” Dodge Viper left the market in 2017, and will be sorely missed by enthusiasts (if not necessarily buyers)
  • Sales of Acura NSX recovered after a disastrous Q3’17 to surpass 200 for the first time in the final quarter, allowing the model to leap ahead of fellow Japanese halo car Nissan GT-R, as well as the eco-friendly BMW i8 (which recorded the worst decline in the whole segment, losing more than two-thirds of sales in one year)
  • Second from last was the McLaren Super Series, which saw a steady sales decline in the first three quarters, until the new 720S replaced the outgoing 650S, leading to a 78% growth in sales in Q4’17
  • Finally, the new Ford GT is plum last in the segment, though given the model’s specialization and limited supply it’s still pretty OK for sales to have reached 40 in Q4’17

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