US car sales analysis Q4 2017 – Premium Compact segment

Segment loses more sales than any other bar the small sports segment, with only Infiniti QX30 seeing sales rise
US premium compact

Sales in the US premium compact segment fell by 27.5% to 19,531 in the fourth quarter of 2017, pretty much in line with the segment’s form in 2017, when  sales fell overall by 25.9% to 86,495. Such a decline made this the second-fastest shrinking segment in the US in 2017, behind only the sports small segment, which experienced a scarcely-believable 36.9% collapse in sales. Although there are some new models that may come to market in 2018, such as Mercedes-Benz’s new A-class saloon, the new year unfortunately looks to be a repeat of 2017’s misery, as customers keep turning away from the mainstream premium models towards SUVs even faster than in the non-premium sectors, with the premium compact SUV segment growing to 104,528 units and overtaking the premium compact segment for the first time in 2017.


  • Four of the cars in the Top 5 have all had a very similar experience in 2017, seeing their sales fall by 20-25% in 2017
  • No changes at the very front, with Audi A3 maintaining a small advantage over second-placed Mercedes-Benz CLA
  • Infiniti QX30‘s sales performance looks good in the context of the premium compact segment (its positioning is in fact partway between this and the premium compact SUV segment), allowing it to grab third place in 2017, in fact it has been a rocky road for the small Infiniti – after starting the year off great with 6,532 units, outselling even the A3, sales have since declined to barely over 2,000 units in Q4’17, boding ill for the new year

Note: “AP” designates models that are classified in the Alternative Power segment, presented here for comparison; “SUV” for the QX30 means it’s featured in the subcompact crossover segment but we mention it here for comparison; 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 Acura ILX managed to stay ahead of BMW 2-series despite the latter’s push in Q4’17
  • The scale of the disappointment in the segment is most clear in the performance of the Mini Clubman, a new-for-2016 model, whose sales fell by 37% in 2017, though this speaks also to the falling appeal of the Mini brand in the US
  • Despite a facelift towards the end of the year BMW i3 still lost sales even in Q4’17, although remarkably its sales decline of 18% was the smallest from all existing nameplates, bar the QX30
  • 2017 marked the end of the line for the Lexus CT and Cadillac ELR, with no indication that either model will be replaced in the future

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

    1. Something a customer gets for free when buying another product to enhance brand/product recognition and customer relations/satisfaction.

      In the automotive industry the term ‘premium’ often means paying more for less or the same as (mainstream) competitors and thus fooling the customer.

    2. @Funny guy – ‘premium’ is a pretty standard term in the automotive world. Generally, it refers to brands that are upmarket, offering a higher standard of finish and more technology in their cars relative to mainstream cars of comparable size. Example: Audi is VAG’s premium brand to the mainstream Volkswagen, Lexus is the premium brand to the mainstream Toyota, while Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar don’t have direct links with mainstream brands.

      But, the point Losange raises is valid, in that ‘premium’ often is about how the consumer feels than about what he gets objectively, and often has to pay considerably more for it. As a result, premium brands do very well in rich countries where image is very important (Germany, Britain) and worse in less-rich countries

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