Foreign Influence? Europe Tilts Even Further Into SUV Mania; Diesel Popularity Plummets

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
foreign influence europe tilts even further into suv mania diesel popularity

The continent that spawned microscopic postwar bubble cars and made the “city car” segment a thing is moving ever further away from its automotive past. European buyers, perhaps influenced by their American counterparts, are beginning to realize they truly can have it all, adjusting their buying habits accordingly.

Of course, by “all,” we mean all the cargo space.

According to Autocar, the first half of 2018 saw European buyers purchase more utility vehicles than ever before. It helped that Europeans are on a bit of a buying tear — with 8.66 million registrations over the first six months of 2018, the industry grew 2.4 percent compared to the first half of 2017.

Looking closer at the numbers, the growth is all about SUVs. Passenger car sales fell 4 percent in the first half, but SUV sales grew 24 percent. This places the market share of cars at just a hair under 40 percent. Fueling the demand in commodious, high-riding vehicles are a slew of recent model introductions, among them the Volkswagen T-Roc, which Americans cannot have. (We’ll see a right-sized U.S. small crossover in the coming year or so.)

While a post-Dieselgate VW made crossovers and SUVs the centerpiece of its American sales strategy, the same product push is paying off on the Continent. The brand’s utility vehicle sales rose 42 percent in the first half.

Unlike in the U.S., passenger cars still top the sales sheet, but crossovers are making inroads into the upper echelon. Nissan’s Qashqai (Rogue Sport) is Europe’s fifth best-selling vehicle, behind the Volkswagen Golf, Renault Clio, VW Polo, and Ford Fiesta. In seventh place sits the Volkswagen Tiguan, while the Renault Captur crossover places ninth.

Compare this to U.S. sales in the first half of 2018, where six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles were pickups, SUVs, or crossovers. Only the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Accord crack that upper rank, in sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth place, respectively.

This isn’t the only manner in which Europe’s auto landscape is beginning to emulate the States. MPVs, or small minivan-type vehicles, are sinking fast. Sales of that segment sank 23 percent over the first half of the year. Joining the little vans in their death plunge is the increasingly unpopular diesel engine.

European automakers have more or less agreed that diesel, once the majority propulsion source of new cars, should give way to more efficient gasoline engines and electric (or electrified) powertrains. After shrinking by 17 percent compared to the first half of 2017, diesel vehicles accounted for just 37 percent of new vehicle sales this year. At the same time, registrations of alternatively fueled vehicles (AFVs) rose 31 percent. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric vehicles made up 5.4 percent of new vehicle purchases this year.

Looking at these figures, it’s no wonder Mercedes-Benz took one look at the Nissan Navara pickup and said, “ Make us one of those.”

[Image: Nissan]

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2 of 33 comments
  • Outback_ute Outback_ute on Jul 31, 2018

    "Looking at these figures, it’s no wonder Mercedes-Benz took one look at the Nissan Navara pickup and said, “Make us one of those.” Does the sales data you have show how many pickups are sold in Europe Steph? I was looking at info from Germany recently, and all I could determine was that there wasn't a pickup in the top 30 models sold.

  • DieselTechForum DieselTechForum on Jul 31, 2018

    Two opposing trends- demand for larger US style SUVs in Europe and a decline in diesel engine options = recipe for higher CO2 emissions and higher fuel consumption from the car sector. For those that are sticking with diesel most - but not all -- of the new Euro 6 models are verified to be well within the real driving emissions requirements, (check out the Equa Index) and are still a good choice for drivers.

  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.
  • Abqhudson Passenger seating in recent accords has been unacceptable with my 5’2” wife forced to look at the dash while sitting in the hole provided.