The UK car market is seeing the rapidly increasing downfall of the traditional family saloon, according to the March edition of the Glass’s Guide “industry bible”.

In 1998, sales of upper medium sector or ‘family’ cars (known in the industry as class ‘D’ vehicles) accounted for 19.6 per cent of the total UK market of around two million cars a year.

Last year this fell to 14.8 per cent which flies in the face of overall car sale trends, which were up 10.7 percent in 2001 alone.

Clearly, the pattern of purchasing is changing, Glass’s said.

Said chief car editor, Jeff Paterson: “Two vehicle sectors in particular have stolen sales from the family car as we know it: compact MPVs [minivans] – up 3.7 percent over the same period – and premium brand cars such as BMW’s 3 series, Audi’s A4 and Mercedes’ C-Class – which is currently demonstrating a staggering year-on-year increase of 28 percent.”

Glass’s says many UK drivers are reluctant to be tarred with the image of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra or Peugeot 406-driving company rep and may well even tolerate the pending Benefit In Kind (BIK) taxation in order to hang on to their beloved Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

Typical Mondeo or Vectra company car drivers seeking more status now have greater choice, Glass’s said, thanks to the arrival of more niche models.

This goes some way to explaining why the compact MPV sector remains one of the fastest growing of all – up 73 percent in the last three years.

Unlike the cars in the declining family car sector, values of used compact MPVs are currently high.

How before this new niche field becomes a fully-fledged sector of its own and faces the threat of increasing discounts, over-supply and loss of image, remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, it seems that the combination of product innovations like the MPV and the apparently insatiable demand for premium brand vehicles is set to progressively erode the traditional large family car.

Given time, it seems the ‘D’ in the class could stand for Dodo, Glass’s said.