By on September 10, 2013


We’ll confirm it. Again. America is becoming ever more hungry for small premium brand crossovers, and that’s not simply a result of there being more $40,000 German utility vehicles from which to choose.

Exclude the BMW X1, which only became available late in the third quarter of 2012, and the small luxury SUV market (as we’ve defined it in the table below) grew 29% in the first eight months of 2013.

Sure, perhaps some of this growth can be attributed to an increased effort to lease vehicles to consumers who might otherwise consider a Ford Escape Titanium. But the growth rate in this category is far in excess of the overall industry’s 9.5% improvement; better than the overall SUV/CUV market’s 13.5% improvement, as well.

As is bound to be the case, improvement can’t be found in all corners of the category. The BMW X3’s 5% year-over-year drop through eight months, however, has occurred with a combined 74% increase in X1/X3 volume. And while Infiniti’s outdated QX50 (formerly EX) is down 47% this year, having fallen 42% last year, the gains of Infiniti’s three-row QX60 (formerly JX) have propelled Infiniti’s four-pronged utility vehicle lineup to a 19% boost in 2013.

Meanwhile, the year-over-year increases reported by the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60 have outpaced the industry average. Even Land Rover’s LR2 is selling better than it did in 2011 or 2012, although at little more than one-third the rate it did just six years ago.

Not unlike a hyped-up sports car that initially sells very well then gradually reaches a mature, steady monthly output, small luxury crossovers form an immature group. The difference, in this case, relates to the fact that consistent volume, a levelling off, may not occur for some time.

The Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Porsche Macan can attract more buyers than they pull away from the Q5 and GLK and Cayenne. The Lexus LF-NX Concept certainly doesn’t look like something that would attract most conservative RX buyers. And it’s not as though automakers will allow their current models to languish. Even in their current iterations, hoods are opening up to reveal diesel powerplants. Neither have we seen what will be done with second-generation versions of most vehicles in the segment.

So are consumers currently attracted to Q5s, RDXs, X3s, GLKs, and Evoques because they’re fresh and shiny? Of course, but there’s not about to be any lack of freshness or shine. On one hand, sales will not continue to grow at otherworldly rates; not forever. On the other, the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon isn’t about to make a dent in the small luxury crossover category’s move up the ladder.

The Audi A4 Allroad rose 13% to 456 units in August and 161% to 3665 units year-to-date. The RX and SRX from Lexus and Cadillac, America’s two top-selling premium brand utility vehicles, combined for 18,634 August sales, up from 13,831 in August 2012. Year-to-date, the RX and SRX are up to 101,822 units from 95,566 during the same period in 2012. Base prices for the RX and SRX put them up against the smaller luxury crossovers. The Buick Encore, if you must throw it in the mix, has achieved August/YTD totals of 4296 and 19,724 units.

These nine tall wagons are responsible for 1.3% of America’s new vehicle sales so far this year, up from 1% during the first two-thirds of 2012.

Times have changed. In 2007, when the RDX, X3, and LR2 were laying the foundation, only 0.4% of the market belonged to the category.


8 mos.
Acura RDX
4381 2926 + 49.7% 30,517 16,863 + 81.0%
Audi Q5
3845 2007 + 91.6% 25,331 17,641 + 43.6%
2278 576 + 295% 16,504 576 + 2765%
2146 2829 – 24.1% 18,485 19,557 – 5.5%
Infiniti EX/QX50
236 216 + 9.3% 1189 2227 – 46.6%
Land Rover LR2
347 250 + 38.8% 2070 2038 + 1.6%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
1070 700 + 52.9% 7463 5676 + 31.5%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
2372 2775 – 14.5% 20,898 16,935 + 23.4%
Volvo XC60
1793 1897 – 5.5% 14,086 12,188 + 15.6%
14,176 + 30.3% 136,543 93,701 + 45.7%
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4 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Small Premium Utilities – August 2013...”

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    “On the other, the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon isn’t about to make a dent in the small luxury crossover category’s move up the ladder.”

    This past Saturday I went to the local BMW dealer to see about that 3-series wagon. They had received one but put it into the loaner pool and it was out with a customer. They don’t seem remotely interested in selling it. Same deal with the hybrid 3. Straight to the loaner pool.

    The dealers want a small number of “high volume” vehicles to sell. I guess it’s easier that way.

    • 0 avatar

      At least they ordered ONE wagon for stock. My local dealer is ordering ZERO wagons for stock, they just do build to order for them. Admittedly, they are a very small dealer and their BTO business approaches 50% of their sales. But that makes it awfully hard to see if the upgrade from mine is worth it! I was in there for my annual state inspection today, they do have a 328d sedan coming in next week, and I am on the list to give it a go.

      It only makes sense that the X1 would eat into X3 sales, but BMW is probably OK with that since it frees up capacity for the X5 and X6. IIRC Spartenburg is running pretty much full tilt.

  • avatar

    The reports of Acura’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

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