The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara

Having sniffed the exhaust pipes of the French and German marques within Europe’s D-segment, we make one last visit to wave a fond adieu to our friends from Japan. 

Toyota Avensis - get 'em while they're hot - image via infoziare
Toyota Avensis – get ’em while they’re still hot – image via infoziare

A facelifted Toyota Avensis bowed in at Geneva, featuring front-end styling eerily familiar to current Auris and Corolla owners. It probably represents the last opportunity to purchase one of these while they’re still warm because Toyota has broadly hinted that they may not replace the model once it breathes its last in a couple of year’s time. The reason? Only 28,972 were sold last year, 16% less than they managed in 2013. We recently touched upon Honda’s decision to pull out of the European D-segment, and similar logic holds true for Toyota. Honda sold a paltry 3,499 Accords last year – a drop of 22% on 2013. The cost of producing Euro-centric models for a shrinking market no longer stacks up for Toyota and especially for Honda, so there it is. It’s not them, it’s us.

Handsome but huge - image via greencarreports
Handsome but huge – Mazda’s 6. Image via greencarreports

Mazda by contrast is in a stronger position, aided by their strongest lineup in years. Mazda sold 31,032 of the D-sector 6 model last year, down 5% on the previous year, but a strong performance by mainstream Japanese standards nonetheless. Sixth place in the segment is no small beans, given who they’re up against. The numbers for Mazda are further bolstered by the fact that the 6 is also sold in the United States, Australia and the Far-East, so the economies of scale work very much in Mazda’s favour. The fact that it’s a something of a looker can’t hurt either.

Suzuki Kizashi - big in, well nowhere actually - image via thetorquereport
Suzuki Kizashi – big in, well nowhere actually – image via thetorquereport

Subaru also lost volume in 2014, with a fall of 17% over the previous year for the Legacy and Outback model. Sales of 6415 are pretty miserable, but at twice that of Honda, it could be worse. Like Mazda however, US sales make up for the European shortfall, where Subaru continue to do good business, mopping up all those distraught Saab owners. Suzuki meanwhile have ceased production of the Kizashi – a model which has proven an abject flop for them, both in Europe and the United States. Its demise removes them from the sector completely and frankly, it’s unlikely they’ll try again.

Why isn't this car selling in Europe? Kia Optima - image via cockpitautomovel
Why isn’t this car selling in Europe? Kia Optima – image via cockpitautomovel

So as the Japanese prepare to pack up and leave the D-sector completely, Korean marques Kia and Hyundai keep making solid inroads in all major European markets. Despite this, their performance in this segment is not exactly stellar, despite competitive offerings. With sales last year 25,016, the Hyundai i40 was a respectable performer, but no more than that. This figure represents a drop of 17% on the previous year, but with a facelift due in 2015, this may be temporary. More mystifying still is Kia’s pathetic performance, selling a paltry 3,409 Optimas – less even than Honda managed. How is this possible? The Kia is a handsome design, is mechanically identical to its Hyundai sibling and is priced similarly. Is it a perception issue, a lack of dealership representation or a problem of supply? That it’s only available in three colours? Answers on a postcard please.

Adieu Accord - image via motorauthority
Adieu Accord – image via motorauthority

Why have the Japanese marques failed, when they do such good business elsewhere? By focusing predominantly on the US, have they reacted too slowly to changing buyer patterns in Europe? Producing reliable, durable product is clearly not enough any more – not if it fails to appeal to buyers who are becoming more discerning and brand-oriented. As they move further upmarket, the flight of the Japanese marques poses a stark lesson for Hyundai/Kia – one they ignore at their peril.

Data sources: via ANDC/JATODynamics

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

6 thoughts on “The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara”

  1. Thanks for reminding me of the Kizashi and Optima. I have to take issue with the idea that buyers are more discerning and brand orientated. I think that being brand orientated makes one less discerning, not more. Brand-orientated customers assume a product is good because it has the right label on it. A discerning customer will be attentive to all parameters and may make an urnorthodox choice. That Optima looks like a very find automobile: I had a stare at the interior. It´s different without being stupid about it. It´s rather dispiriting that the D-sector is now so uniform and that it has no room for the also-rans who seem to have run quite hard to boot. I see this is a further manifestation of the urge people have for silver or grey cars. Buyers aren´t just being picky they are being finicky and over-cautious. None of these failing cars are bad enough to justifcy their extinction and none of the best-sellers are so good as to justify their oligopoly.

  2. The Optima is indeed a fine looking car, but apparently it excels in no area. Offering a single diesel engine and no petrol versions for private buyers also signals a lack of faith from Kia.

  3. Ah, Tagora syndrome. One doesn´t have to excel but one should at least compete. Having only one engine is a recipe for deterring customers. I have seen this time and again. If I know this then I am sure someone in the car companies must know this too. Engines cost a fortune to develop – the best way to have a good engine range is to have started developing it 20 years ago. It could be that just as Ikea is now unbeatable, there will be no more serious entrants to the car market; Kia and Hyundai crept in at the last possible moment. Qoros are doomed and some existing players will die off soon.

  4. Kia definitely needs to show more confidence in the Optima. It delayed its deployment to the UK a good couple of years from the point at which it was offered in the US, and then made it available in a very limited manner. One hopes that it will take the opportunity of a new model to be more deliberate about its launch into the UK. The one new car outlet in our town offers both Kia and Mazda, which I find a very interesting and quite attractive mix. I find the Mazda6 a handsome, if oversized, thing, but the Optima is on another level. The thing is that I’m turned off the Kia by a pretty miserable 1.7L diesel, a rather low-rent looking interior, and so-so chassis (as per reports), whereas the Mazda6 offers a nice range of engines, good dynamics and an attractive interior (just made more appealing by the facelift). Hence, I see the 6 as an option for the future, but not the current Optima, even though I think the looks of the latter are quite disarmingly handsome.

  5. I dare you to take both out on a test drive. I wish I lived somewhere where car dealers were not so far away. The city centre of Aarhus has been cleared off dealers; they are all 10 km from the city centre, dumped along the main roads into town. It´s not pretty.

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