The Minicar segment is one of the smallest ones in the US, both in terms of sales and the number of models offered (only five in the US, compared to 30 in Europe!). This reflects the fact that, for the vast majority of users in the US, cars as small as this are simply too small; rather, they are bought by a very narrow group of city-dwelling consumers. In addition, due to fringe positioning the Minicar segment in the US ranges from the cheapest new car on sale (the Mitsubishi Mirage) all the way to the premium MINI.
The segment grew by 9% compared to the first half of 2014, though in this case it’s almost weird to talk about averages. Rather, you observe two types of performances – the cars that gained a lot of sales because they’re new, and cars that lost sales because they’re aging. In the former group is the new MINI, which regained its position as market leader on the back of sales that rose by 62%, no doubt helped by the arrival of the ungainly but popular 5-door model. Its main rival, Fiat 500, saw its sales fall 15% year-on-year and stayed in #3, making the incoming facelift all the more important.
It is also interesting to compare the sales of the two models in the US to those in Europe – whereas MINI’s sales in the US are more than 50% of its European total, the equivalent figure for the 500 is only 16%, which emphasizes the little Fiat’s different positioning. In Europe it is pitched as a semi-premium model and offered with a variety of engines, diesels and small petrols included, in the US it is aimed squarely at the MINI, with higher-output engines and high levels of equipment.In #2 meantime is the Chevrolet Spark, arguably the only truly mainstream car in this segment. Pitched as a truly city-centric alternative to the larger Aveo, the aging Chevy did well against the Mitsubishi Mirage, a car that’s really sized between the Minicar and Subcompact segments, and whose sales rose by 63% from a low base. Closing off the stakes are the Smart ForTwo, a model that never really caught on in the US but whose sales still look much better than those of the Scion (Toyota) iQ, a genuine, bona fide flop.
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