Cain's Segments: Luxury Crossovers

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
cain s segments luxury crossovers

A strong start to 2014 has the BMW X3 leading its segment even as it’s challenged more closely in BMW showrooms by the slightly smaller and less expensive X1.

X1 sales in February jumped 57% to 2329 units, only 318 units shy of what BMW USA managed in January and February of 2013 combined. More direct competition for the X1 is set to arrive soon in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3.

At this time, however, potential X1 buyers look across the BMW showroom floor and wonder why they wouldn’t pay a bit more for the X3. Over the last two months, 62% of the X1/X3 juggernaut’s sales have been X3-derived, up just a hair from last year’s 61%.

The X3 outsold Acura’s much less costly RDX by 390 units in February. The RDX is wildly popular, but like the X3, it’s not among the quartet of top-selling premium utility vehicle nameplates in America.

That group begins with the Lexus RX, a viable alternative to these entry-level crossovers, particularly as Lexus doesn’t yet offer a production version of the LF-NX Concept. Likewise, the Cadillac SRX would be seen by many to be Detroit’s rival for the X3, RDX, Q5, and GLK, at least until Lincoln’s MKC arrives. The third-ranked premium SUV/CUV nameplate in America is the Acura MDX; it’s followed by the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Although they don’t lead the way for premium automakers, for many buyers these entry points to the brands’ crossover lineups form the entry point to the brand, full stop. Forget the CLA, A3, and 2-Series; passenger cars with trunks that they are. Growth from these luxury crossovers is significant, especially when one considers that America’s new vehicle market hasn’t grown at all in 2014. The RDX, Q5, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK have all sold more often over the last two months than during the first two months of 2013.

The Audi Q5’s slight February decline was the first such decrease for the Q5 since October 2012. Q5 volume has improved each year since the model arrived in 2009. Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is certainly small enough to be displayed here, although its base price might place it out of reach for a typical Acura RDX customer. Evoque sales are down 5% this year; February volume slid by 54 units. (The Range Rover Sport generated two-thirds of Land Rover’s U.S. February volume.)

Volvo’s XC60 is, not unlike the Volvo brand which it helps to lead, struggling in the United States. Like the Q5, XC60 sales have improved each year since it arrived in 2009, but 2014’s inauspicious start is not terribly surprising given the brand’s recent struggles to attract large numbers of American buyers.

Nevertheless, the story of small luxury crossovers is not told with an emphasis on irregular year-over-year decreases. The RDX, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK jointly rose 26% in February 2014. Those were not at all the sorts of figures commonly achieved by automakers last month.

AutoFeb.2014Feb.2013%Change2 mos.20142 mos.2013%ChangeAcura RDX29112795+ 4.2%56415284+ 6.8%Audi Q526432753– 4.0%54175097+ 6.3%BMW X123291482+ 57.2%36612647+ 38.3%BMW X333012175+ 51.8%60004180+ 43.5%Infiniti QX50/EX220150+ 46.7%417318+ 31.1%Land Rover LR2358273+ 31.1%721573+ 25.8%Land Rover Range Rover Evoque927981– 5.5%18061910– 5.4%Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class26242420+ 8.4%49264816+ 2.3%Volvo XC6011461496– 23.4%20883062– 31.8%—— —————Total 16,459 14,525+ 13.3% 30,677 27,887+ 10.0%
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2 of 31 comments
  • Cdnsfan27 Cdnsfan27 on Mar 13, 2014

    The main reason for the decline of Q5 sales in February was availability. Our dealership had none to sell and neither did most Audi dealers in Florida. We have since recieved two truckloads which are already half sold. A quick check of the Audi locator shows that most incoming Q5's are pre-sold. Not a bad problem to have.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Mar 14, 2014

    Yeah, the Enclave belongs in this chart, but I don't think the Encore really does. I keep saying that the Encore is the perfect car for my mother in law (she drives an 04 LeSabre now) although I don't think we'll get her away from the "bigger is better" idea on cars. Her father drove nothing but large GM wagons or Chrysler products.

  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.