By on March 24, 2017

2016 BMw X1 white

Europe always seemed like a safe haven for the sort of car lover who turns up their nose over North America’s obsession with the sport utility vehicle. That’s now changing, as European demand for SUVs and crossovers continued to grow in 2016. While it may have a penchance for slightly smaller models, the EU saw disproportionately high sales of compact crossovers last year.

In total, SUV sales accounted for 25 percent of all European passenger vehicle sales in 2016 — up from 21 percent the previous year. That doesn’t quite equal the United States’ fervent addiction but, if the European Union keeps this pace, it’ll be less than a decade before it closes the gap. 

The strongest-selling examples listed by Automotive News Europe include the Volvo XC60, Renault Captur, Nissan Qashqai, or BMW X1, and might look microscopic when compared to a Chevrolet Suburban, but those models make up a big part of of the equation. Those vehicles outpaced the overall market increase of 6.5 percent by a huge margin, as did most SUVs that weren’t of a gargantuan nature.

Of course, those sales increases came at the expense of sedans, hatchbacks, and especially wagons — echoing the North American market trend away from small, practical passenger cars.

Europe’s smallest SUV segment grew 20 percent to 1.26 million units last year while traditional subcompacts, led by the Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo hatchbacks, lost ground. The same was true for compact crossovers, which performed even better and ate into Golf sales.

Larger SUVs were a mixed bag, however. While premium options saw a 22 percent sales increase to 271,014 units last year, more common examples actually declined by 12 percent — resulting in a mere 70,473 European deliveries for 2016.

Europe’s quickest-growing segment was its premium compact crossover category. Smaller and more lavish SUVs saw a 40 percent gain to 338,428 units. The biggest contributor to that figure was the BMW X1, which doubled its own sales sales to 97,218.

[Image: BMW]

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19 Comments on “SUV Popularity Isn’t Exclusive to North America; Crossovers are now 25 Percent of Europe’s Market...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This is gonna be really good.

  • avatar
    threeer

    One car (class) to rule them all…

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    People buy what they want. Now that SUVs/Crossovers are getting much closer to sedans in terms of fuel economy, what is the point of a sedan? Better driving dynamics? Who cares when you have a family and drive on the expressway/freeway every day. Hitting a curvy country road once in a while isn’t going to dictate most peoples car purchases.

    Also, in many European countries, engine size determines tax and fees, so smaller engines in smaller cars were preferred or forced to be more accurate on the population.

    With small SUVs running similar small motors displacement motors, of course the crossover version will gain in popularity.

    You think Europeans like cramped little boxes? They buy them because they had to, by policies that heavily favored them.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There are virtually no small sedans in Europe. Europeans buy hatches, and these are just hatches on stilts. And relatively few of them are anything but front wheel drive. Calling them all “SUVs” seems a bit disingenuous – there are all sorts of tall hatches (like the Fiat 500L sort of thing), but not very many of what Americans would call SUVs outside of the luxury class.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “Now that SUVs/Crossovers are getting much closer to sedans in terms of”..

      ..smashed-down greenhouses and lowered rideheight. CAFE just came for them later, after people fled crampy, blind sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      SuperCarEnthusiast

      Most roads in the cities are pretty straight forward! Only in the country and rural do you find winding roads. But you seldom have free access to go all out since there are semis on these roads and they are governor for 55 mph!

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Is that an X1 in the picture? Or an X3? Maybe a bit small for an X5….but who can tell anymore? They all look the same now, especially from a profile view.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      When have German model lines ever looked particularly different? It’s been “one sausage, different lengths” for a good 40-odd years now.

      But FWIW, that is the current gen X1.

    • 0 avatar
      Wodehouse

      I thought, at first, it was a Buick Envision, but, I’m old with sketchy vision, and, I realize that this is about Europe…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The X6 was all over Switzerland and I saw at least one in Czechia. That was about it for the “CUV” last summer. Several SUVs to be had including several Merc GLs and vintage Land Cruisers outside of Sargens station.

  • avatar
    mzr

    Et tu, Europe?

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Well, they’re our height and aging into arthritis, too. Perhaps they even relish a few last glances at their surroundings before headrests touch roofs.

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    As the MK3 Jetta is the nemesis of Mr. Regular, any and all crossovers are my nemesis.

    A scourge upon the automotive market, they are. An unwelcome compromise. IDGAF, IWNGAF about ease of ingress/egress as it’s sold. Not worth the wack trade off of fuel economy and ponderous driving dynamic.

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