By on November 16, 2014

mercedes-benz-gla-2In the span of two months, the BMW X1 went from possessing no true direct German competition to finding challengers on two fronts.

That’s not to say the X1 was never a viable, though slightly smaller, challenger to the rivals of BMW’s own X3. But the X1 was sitting on the bottom rung of the ladder, and it’s no longer resting their on its own.

Audi USA sold 243 Q3s during the month it which it first went on sale in the United States, August 2014. Another 1092 were sold in August. October results, visible in the accompanying table, position the Q3 at the bottom of the three-car category.

(Want to add the Buick Encore into the mix? It sells far more often than any of these cars – 4780 copies in October; 41,213 year-to-date – but it’s 26% cheaper than the Q3 in base form, 22% less costly than the X1, and 26% less expensive than our final subject, the Mercedes-Benz GLA.) Sales of the Q3’s big brother, the Q5, were up 6% to 3571 units in October. 2014 appears set to be the Q5’s fifth consecutive year of annual U.S. sales growth.

October 2014
October 2013
% Change
10 mos. 2014
10 mos. 2013
% Change
Audi Q3
683 2,018
 2,073 3,059 -32.2% 17,801 21,407 -16.8%
Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
2007 2,998
3,059  55.7%  22,817  21,407  6.6%

The BMW X1 reached a sales peak of more than 4300 units in March of this year but has averaged fewer than 1800 monthly sales, down from more than 2200 last year. The X1 is part of a five-pronged SAV lineup at BMW that’s enjoyed a 6.5% sales increase in 2014 despite significant declines from the X1 and X6. X3 sales are up 26% to 28,808 this year. X5 sales have risen 9% to lead the range with 36,376 sales. As you can see, X1 volume fell by nearly 1000 units in October, but the Q3 and GLA did much more than make up for those losses.

The GLA, a Mercedes-Benz CLA-related tall hatchback that you can call an SUV or a crossover or a CUV if you like, is also part of a five-member SUV/crossover lineup. The GLA, along with the more costly and larger G, GL, GLK, and M-Class, generated 39% of the Mercedes-Benz brand’s non-Sprinter sales in October. The GLA’s presence may have had an impact on the GLK’s total in October, the GLA’s second month, but if so, it was only the slightest of impacts. (Mercedes-Benz reported 991 U.S. GLA sales in September.) GLK volume slid 4%, a loss of just 107 units, after rising 21% during the first three-quarters of 2014. But GLK inventory of late hasn’t been as strong as it was earlier in the year, and the GLA therefore may have had little to do with the decline.

The lesson? If “luxury” automakers are going to sell more new vehicles, they’ll do so with less costly vehicles. And if they’re going to sell more of these less costly vehicles, the easiest way to do so will be to turn those vehicles into high riders, or at least vehicles with the appearance of increased ride heights. They’re not huge sellers – yet – but nearly one out of every 20 Audis soldnin October was a Q3. BMW has relied on the X1 for 7% of the brand’s U.S. volume this year. Likewise, 7% of the vehicles sold in Mercedes-Benz showrooms last month were GLAs.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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50 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Compact Luxury Crossovers In October 2014...”

  • avatar

    Did I miss something? Why isn’t the Macan included in this group?

  • avatar

    IIRC, the Macan starts at around $49k. The X1, Q3 and GLA all start in the low $30s.

    • 0 avatar

      Is there a price cap on luxury compact crossovers? (scratches head) That would seem counter to the term

      • 0 avatar

        No price cap, but the Macan is more directly competing (in size and price) with the one-size-larger crossovers (GLK, Q5, X3).

        To be fair, the Macan and its competitors are the ACTUAL compact crossovers, whereas the vehicles discussed in this article are actually Subcompact Crossovers…because that’s what the world has come to

  • avatar

    That gray blob in the photo is no CUV.

    If the roof isn’t taller than your necktie knot it’s knot a CUV.


  • avatar

    Utility vehicles be it SUV/CUV are “lifestyle” vehicles, when a new offering appears on the market it generates new attention and captures sales from incumbents.

    These new offerings are also cannibalizing sales from same make incumbents, which poses an interesting challenge especially for German manufacturers.

    The end game is who can capture the most in the various price segments from the sedan to utility migration, especially from competing makes.

    The market is inexorably migrating from sedans to “utility” which generates new opportunities for most manufacturers, while presenting new challenges.

    From the US numbers one could conclude that the Macan (5,390 YTD Oct) is devastating Cayenne (13,652 YTD Oct vs 15,582 last year). Although Porsche is still 3,500 units ahead in the “utility segment”

    While the undisputed leaders in the luxury utility segment strengthen their position/sales (Lexus RX 84,271 vs 81,258) as an example. Cadillac sold a ton (50%) more Slades and did not lose a beat with the SRX. Lincoln sold 8,615 MKC’s and did not lose MKX sales.

    We all know that programs, incentives have a direct influence on the various sales numbers. Perhaps the Germans want to see where the dust settles prior to applying programs. While the others applied preemptive programs to counter the Germans.

    The end game is who can capture the most in the various price segments in the migration from sedans to utility, especially from competing manufacturers.

  • avatar

    I think to be fair you should have the Lincoln MKC and Cadillac SRX on that list to gauge the overall compact luxury crossover market.

    Lincoln MKC USA 2014 sales
    Oct 2014 – 2197 (every month increasing)
    New model, no 2013 sales

    Cadillac SRX USA sales
    Oct 2014 – 3640 units (down)
    Oct 2013 – 5373 units

    The next step should be to show the price comparison to see if compact luxury CUV’s are winning on price or declining due to the product-line maturing. Note the SRX declines. I wonder if that is related to Cadillac’s recent pricing strategy or just that the model is aging?

    • 0 avatar

      This really is a vague segment Wiki defines…
      Mini SUV

      A mini SUV (also called subcompact SUV or subcompact crossover) is a class of small sport utility vehicles. The term usually applies to crossovers based on a supermini (B-segment cars in Europe) platform such as the Daihatsu Terios, Chevrolet Trax, Mini Countryman, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Opel Mokka, Peugeot 2008, Fiat 500X and Renault Captur.

      Compact SUV

      A compact SUV is a class of smaller SUVs that are commonly built with less cargo and passenger space, and often with smaller engines resulting in better fuel economy, the term is often interchangeable with crossover SUV. Some examples are: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Ford Escape, Jeep Compass, Jeep Cherokee, Honda CR-V, Suzuki Vitara, Mahindra Quanto, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Mitsubishi ASX, Opel Antara, Range Rover Evoque, Renault Koleos, Škoda Yeti, Chevrolet Captiva, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC60.

      There are clearly vehicles left out of this article and a lot of crossing the lines

  • avatar

    Here’s a picture of the Encore up against the BMW X1. The X1 is huge by comparison, that’s why I question the segment parameters*de-profile.jpg

  • avatar

    Soooo…a subcompact crossover is a compact crossover with less front overhang and less rear overhang/cargo space?

  • avatar

    Spotted my first GLA today. I have to say, it is quite bland.

  • avatar

    These are the future folks. Dealwithit.gif

  • avatar

    If only a manufacturer could come up with a way to be immune from rush hour. (It’s actually 2x3hrs/day near Vancouver)

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