The Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class/CLA twins beat out traditional volume players in the small car segment including the Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer and Nissan Pulsar in January.
We have written before about the way premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are increasingly ‘cutting the lunch’ of traditional mainstream brands with entry vehicles priced from about $35K plus on-roads, but January’s figures provide a stark reminder.
Last month, 576 examples of the Audi A3 Sportback and sedan (674 if you count the convertible) were registered, while rival Mercedes-Benz sold 610 units of its A-Class hatch/CLA sedan twins. The BMW 1 Series hatch struggled with 158 units.
Have a look now at the sales figures of similarly sized small hatchbacks and sedans from so-called mainstream volume brands in January. Honda Civic hatch and sedan: 375 units. Mitsubishi Lancer hatch and sedan: 524 units. Nissan Pulsar hatch and sedan: 399 units.
We would say one thing in their defence — January is regularly a slow month for fleet sales, a market where many small cars (particularly the Lancer and Pulsar) net a large percentage of their volume.
Nevertheless, each of this trio was down over January 2014 — the Civic dropped 56 per cent, the Lancer 5 per cent and the Pulsar 36 per cent.
All of these Japanese offerings were once major players in a segment that for some time now has been dominated by the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, which generally top 3000 monthly sales, and the Hyundai i30. In January these cars respectively totalled 3903, 3472 and 2092.
Reaching down the market allows luxury brands to net buyers at an earlier stage of life, with the aim of luring them progressively up the range as their years and bank balances grow.
On the topic of moving further up the range, you can find similar figures in the mid-sized vehicle market, where sedan and wagon versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series easily outsold the mainstream players.
The two Germans managed, respectively, 823 sales (Mercedes is posting some staggering numbers on its new-generation staple) and 327 sales. In comparison, consider the following ‘mainstream’ mid-sizers, though again recall that point about slow fleet sales.
The (runout) Ford Mondeo: 59. Holden Malibu: 76. Honda Accord/Accord Euro: 127. Hyundai i40: 158. Nissan Altima: 125. (Just-replaced) Subaru Liberty: 239. Volkswagen Passat: 220. Even the Lexus IS with 180 sales beat most of these, and also the Audi A4 with just 128 units.