SUVs overtake passenger cars in luxury market

In news that won’t surprise anyone who’s driven past a private school around home-time, luxury SUVs are the fastest-growing vehicle type by sales in 2016. Indeed, in the premium market, they're the new 'mainstream'.
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According to November figures, yearly sales in the small, medium and upper large luxury SUV segments are up about 50 per cent apiece over 2015. By contrast, the SUV market as a whole is up only 9 per cent and the overall market 2 per cent.

RSQ3 v GLA45 opener 2

Intriguingly, sales across what VFACTS classifies as the four luxury SUV segments (decided by dimensions) are up from 47,211 this time last year to 62,942 this year. At the same time, sales across premium passenger cars (multiple segments including hatches, sedans, wagons, coupes and convertibles) have dropped from 59,481 to 57,735.

Thus, luxury SUVs are now more popular than luxury passenger cars, to use the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries' VFACTS categories.


Let’s start at the small end of town.

Sales of small SUVs as a whole have flattened this year, and the mainstream market is actually down 1.4 per cent. However, members of the elite Small > $40k class are up 48.1 per cent combined.

Leading the charge is the new-generation BMW X1 with 3777 (up more than 200 per cent). But this new model has hardly hurt rivals, with the Mercedes-Benz GLA (3507, up 29 per cent) and Audi Q3 (3374, up 6 per cent) doing just fine.

Porsche Macan S Diesel v Audi SQ5 Drag CA

You might guess that the overall segment growth here could bite into medium SUV sales. But sales of mainstream cars in this larger class (dominated by the Mazda CX-5) are hammering along at 13 per cent growth, so that isn’t happening.

More relevantly, sales of premium medium SUVs (Medium > $60k) are growing even faster, up 49 per cent to 27,353. Impressively, every competitor bar the aged Audi Q5, soon to be replaced and beset by the diesel stop-sale, is up.

Discovery sport

The segment leaders are the: Mercedes-Benz GLC (4455, almost entirely new to the segment), Land Rover Discovery Sport (3975, up 129 per cent), BMW X3 (3580, up 34 per cent) and Audi Q5 (3298, down 15 per cent).

For context, the GLC has outsold the Ford Kuga (now Escape), and the Discovery Sport has doubled the sales haul managed by the Jeep Cherokee.


These are followed by the Lexus NX (3166, up 15 per cent) Range Rover Evoque (2492, up 16 per cent), Porsche Macan (2116, up 10 per cent), Volvo XC60 (1996, up 23 per cent), BMW X4 (1607, up 59 per cent) and new Jaguar F-Pace (668).

The final piece of the puzzle is the upper large SUV market, up a healthy 27 per cent this year. More impressively, the vehicles starting at $100k are up 49 per cent to 1940 units.

2016 Mercedes Benz GLS350d-87

Leader of the charge is the Mercedes-Benz GLS on 781. Combined with its predecessor GL’s sales (282), this model is up 35 per cent. The Range Rover is also up, by 15 per cent to 417 units. Next is the Lexus LX (267, up 50 per cent). The Infiniti QX80 and Bentley Bentayga have managed 51 and 46 sales respectively.

For those wondering, sales of large luxury SUVs are also up, just by fewer percentage point. Nevertheless, growth of more than 12 per cent to 22,354 makes this a critically important piece of the pie.

2016 Luxury SUV Comparo_Range Rover Sport V Jaguar F Pace V Porsche Cayenne V Volvo XC90 V BMW X5 V Audi Q7 V Lexus RX350 V Merc GLE250d-216

The leader here is the evergreen BMW X5 (3966, up 1 per cent), ahead of the new Audi Q7 (2581, up 56 per cent), Range Rover Sport (2775, up 8 per cent) and Mercedes-Benz GLE (2516, up almost 500 per cent). Also growing are the Lexus RX (1781, up 15 per cent) and Volvo XC90 (1380, up 211 per cent).

In the overall brand stakes, the list of top-selling luxury SUV-makers goes:

  1. BMW (13,492, up 43 per cent)
  2. Land Rover/Range Rover (12,427, up 17.5 per cent)
  3. Mercedes-Benz (12,406, up 94 per cent)
  4. Audi (9253, up 6 per cent)
  5. Lexus (5214, up 16.5 per cent)
  6. Volvo (3512, up 59 per cent)
  7. Porsche (3419, up 8 per cent)