Theme: Bodies – Premium Midsize Saloons

We examine the impact new entrants are making on a sector under attack by the CUV contagion.

Market leader. Image: Motortrend.com
Market leader. Image: Motortrend.com

Recent rumours of the Premium Midsize segment’s sales decline appear to have been exaggerated according to a report from analysts, LMC Automotive. Reported in Automotive News, LMC predicted the sector’s continued growth, projecting European volumes for 2016 of 729,000 cars rising further to 760,000 by 2020. Beyond that, they suggest that the continued march of the CUV/crossover will cause the segment to plateau.So-called premium models now account for 46% of total midsize European sales. At the top of the charts the default choice German makes continue their dominance; led for the six months to June by the Audi A4, sales of which are up 29% over the same period in 2015.

No real surprise there but the main interest for sector-watchers is the performance of new entrants, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. The Jaguar XE has now been established in the marketplace for over a year posting a respectable 6th place in the sector to June, sales up 473% from an admittedly low base. These figures however do appear to be as much at the expense of its larger and equally new XF sibling (down 7% for the year to July) as those of rival makes, which can’t have been in the Ralph Speth game plan. Deliveries of Alfa’s oft-delayed Giulia have only begun, so it’s too early to ascribe much significance to its metrics, only to say it’s available – which one supposes is a start.

Bucking trends for the sector is Volvo, its V60 estate model, maintaining a strong 4th position in a sub-segment that is shrinking overall; down from 43% for the first half of 2015 to 41% over the same period this year. That the V60 is perhaps the oldest model in the segment could be seen as further vindication for the Swedish brand. Furthermore, Volvo’s position will not be challenged by the new entrants when it comes to estates. FCA’s Harald Wester made Alfa Romeo’s position plain, recently telling journalists; “that market [estates] is small, in decline and Europe only.” It’s going to be saloons and crossovers all the way from Torino and (as we’ve already been told), Castle Bromwich.

But if Volvo is holding firm with estates, they might as well pack up and go home when it comes to mid-sized saloons. Over the first six months of 2016, Gothenburg has churned out 22,094 V60 estates. Over the same period, a mere 4,694 S60 saloons left the factory for a new home in Europe. Better than Lexus and Infiniti, but that isn’t really going to marinade anyone’s herring now, is it?

So, it’s a case of continued dominance for the big three, a very mixed bag of success from Gothenburg and Coventry and an absent jury for Alfa Romeo. Everyone else is just making up the numbers – but let’s be honest – aren’t they all really?

Data source: JATO Dynamics via Automotive News

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Theme: Bodies – Premium Midsize Saloons”

  1. The S60 is old and not really very good. It’ll be very interesting to see how the upcoming replacement fares in what seems to be the most tediously conservative market in the business. Maybe even men in mid-priced off the peg suits are finally bored of a range of German cars in various shades of “wet road grey”.

  2. It is true, the S60 has not been the best Volvo of recent years. People may have tolerated the training shoe styling if it rode well and had fabulous perceived quality, but it didn’t. And the estate version was a bit too “lifestyle” for the Hush Puppy brigade. Volvo’s new/old styling direction is much better in that regard.

  3. The real story for me is the continued squeeze on everyone else. Ford only shifted 79,000 copies of the Mondeo in Europe in its launch year, which would be pretty dismal if the costs had not already been written off by the 300,000 Fusions shifted in the USA annually. As to why Ford bothers splitting the build between North American and European sites, I could not say.

    1. It might be a matter of the cost of closing a production line rather than profit to be made, with respect to the Mondeo. It’ll get a bashing from the Insignia when the new edition appears.
      The dominance of estates shows the redundancy of saloons. What are estates and CUVs but hatchbacks. And a two door saloon is an even less desirable saloon (but not less lovely, note). Citroen, Renault and Peugeot have taken a drubbing and would envy Ford’s volumes.

    1. Angus: To answer your question, European sales for the Mercedes C-Class for the period are not all that sublime, declining 12% against the same period last year, dropping it to third position behind Audi and BMW. Last year’s figures for the Mercedes were suggested to have been on the back of very generous finance deals aimed at chasing volume – something Mercedes may not have deemed commercially expedient to continue. However, another way of looking at it is that BMW and Audi’s incentives are more generous. Take your pick.

  4. Eoin: I don´t keep a close eye on the grubby business of car sales. I naively assume that the cars turn up to a dealer and a customer pays to drive them away. You mention these “incentives”. Surely that´s what car dealers selling Ford, Opel, Buick and Dodge (for example) do. Do BMW, Audi and Mercedes have discounts too?

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