Analysis: How each car segment is performing in the UK

Analysis: How each car segment is performing in the UK



C-segment family cars have the largest market share, but SUVs now dominate the class

Crossovers and SUVs now account for more than half of all new-car sales in the UK

A decade ago, the industry was talking about market fragmentation. As the cost of bodyshells fell relative to the cost of the chassis, a new age of niche models seemed near.

In fact, the opposite has happened. The three biggest segments (superminis, lower-medium and premium/large SUVs) now take 87.7% of all sales, a record figure. If you look at the market in terms of bodystyle, crossovers/SUVs now account for 54.8% of all sales – another record.

*A-segment city cars*

This segment peaked more than a decade ago at 9.8% of the market, when the scrappage scheme led to thousands of people chopping in their old Metros and Fiestas for Fiat 500s and Hyundai i10s. Today, it is hard for manufacturers to make the numbers add up. City cars sell in smaller volumes than superminis, cost almost as much to make, but sell for a lower price. BEV versions would be too expensive for any model bar the Fiat 500, a situation that has led Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan and others to walk away. Toyota is having a brave stab at recreating the city car as an urban crossover – but at a price somewhat higher than a traditional model.

*Market share 2022 *3.8%

*Market share 2021* 4.4%

*Top three sellers *Fiat 500, Toyota Aygo X, Kia Picanto

*B-segment superminis*

The B-segment is doing better than ever, being a beneficiary of two complementary trends: buyers are migrating to superminis from city cars; and roomy supermini crossovers have led to a growing uptake of buyers.

The most notable aspect of the top three is the model that does not appear. For a decade, the Ford Fiesta was the UK’s best-selling car, but now it sits only seventh. In a sign of the times, Ford is allocating its scarce microchips to the higher-margin Puma and will end production of the Fiesta next year.

*Market share 2022 *32.5%

*Market share 2021 *30.4%

*Top three sellers* Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Puma, Mini

*C-segment family cars*

This used to be known as small family cars, but it is hard to describe a current Nissan Qashqai or even a Ford Focus as small. The segment spent 20 years taking the same 25% to 30% market share as superminis, but the advent of crossovers has enabled it to pull ahead.

The segment is now easily the largest in the UK market – not that the traditional hatchback models have benefited. The top five places this year have been taken by crossovers, with the VW Golf in sixth position overall.

Reflecting current trends, five of the top 10 hatchbacks/saloons come from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Meanwhile, MPVs are almost extinct: their 2.6% segment share is made up of the Dacia Jogger plus assorted van-based models.

*Market share 2022* 37.6%

*Market share 2021* 37.8%

*Top three sellers *Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson

*D-segment large family cars*

The segment that was the UK’s largest in the days of the Ford Sierra is now little more than a rounding error in the overall statistics. The three VW Group cars are the only ones to have sold more than 1000 units for the year to date, despite there being over 20 models (including large MPVs) on the price lists.

*Market share 2022* 1.2%

*Market share 2021* 1.5%

*Top three sellers* Skoda Superb, VW Passat, VW Arteon

*D2-segment compact executive cars*

The decline over the past year looks serious but, in historic terms, the segment is not far from where it was 10 years ago (6.4%). Although it has been losing sales to compact premium SUVs, it gains from large family saloons. However, that has now effectively come to an end because there are almost no more large family car buyers to conquest.

Apart from Tesla, the only non-German model to sell in significant numbers is the Polestar 2, which is outselling the Audi A5 and just behind the Mercedes C-Class. Jaguar sold zero XEs in September and just 72 examples for the year to date.

*Market share 2022* 4.3%

*Market share 2021* 5.9%

*Top three sellers* Tesla Model 3, BMW 3 Series, BMW 4 Series

*E-segment executive cars*

Proportionately, the executive segment has lost more market share than compact executive: it is down by two-thirds over the past decade. The culprit is not hard to identify: executive SUVs, such as the BMW X5, which now outsells the BMW 5 Series. Only the three German models (5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class) sell in big numbers. The move to executive SUVs is largely one-way traffic: few buyers go back to saloons after buying an SUV.

*Market share 2022* 1.4%

*Market share 2021 *1.6%

*Top three sellers* BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class

*F-segment luxury cars*

The luxury saloon segment, long the bastion of traditional models like the Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar XJ, is suddenly a pace-setter. This saloon-only sector is achieving its best-ever market share. Given the near-stampede to electric models (the Audi E-tron is in second place and the Mercedes EQS is fourth), the decision by Jaguar not to launch the showroom-ready electric XJ looks stranger by the month.

*Market share 2022 *0.6%

*Market share 2021* 0.4%

*Top three sellers* Porsche Taycan, Audi E-tron, BMW 7 Series

*Sports cars and coupés*

There used to be two distinct sports/coupé segments: affordable and luxury/ supercar. However, there is only one truly affordable sports car left, the Mazda MX-5, and production of the Audi TT will end next year. The luxury/supercar end of the segment is static, both in the UK and globally. That indicates why McLaren is planning an SUV. Ferrari is the only maker who can profitably sell over 5000 supercars a year.

*Market share 2022* 1.0%

*Market share 2021* 1.0%

*Top three sellers* Porsche 911, Audi TT, Mazda MX-5

*Premium/large SUVs*

This is a diverse segment, running from the Volvo XC40 through to luxury models such as the Range Rover. Despite its diversity, Jaguar Land Rover would always lead the charge, most recently with the Evoque. However, it has fallen sharply in the past two years, now occupying fourth place. In fact, the only JLR model still leading its sub-segment is the Range Rover Sport, which is the best-selling luxury SUV.

The sub-segment that is performing best is compact executive SUVs (up 20.6%). This includes models like the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60.

*Market share 2022* 17.6%

*Market share 2021* 17.0%

*Top three sellers* Tesla Model Y, Volvo XC40, BMW X3

*The battle for top spot*

It is appropriate that the Vauxhall Corsa and the Nissan Qashqai are fighting for the top spot (as of October, the Qashqai narrowly leads the Corsa, according to the latest SMMT data). The UK had a supermini as its best-selling car for over a decade, but the C-segment crossover is now the most popular type of car, with 250,000 sales so far this year.

Car companies say crossovers offer higher margins than hatchbacks. That is true, but it is only half the story. Crossovers are higher margin because demand for them is growing. Once the growth in crossovers comes to an end, the market for crossovers will be just as competitive as it is now for hatchbacks. Crossovers are not the answer to the question of how to increase profitability in a low-margin industry: they just offer some temporary relief.

*David Francis*

Full Article