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UK: Mini-MPVs steal European market share from five-door hatchbacks

By just-auto.com editorial team | 27 June 2003

It’s hardly what DaimlerChrysler’s Smart unit would want to hear as it gets ready to launch the forfour supermini five-door hatchback: worldwide motor industry market intelligence compiler JATO Dynamics claims that midi-MPVs (minivans) are taking sales from the traditional mainstay of the vital lower-medium class, the five-door hatchback.

With VW and Ford now launching midi-MPVs (the Touran and Focus MAV) many would expect the market for them to become saturated and for growth to slow. Instead, argues JATO, growth is likely to continue and a permanent move away from more traditional five-door hatchbacks may be seen.

Midi-MPV volumes have grown by almost 300% since 1998 in the big five European markets. But more significantly, in a market where volumes of conventional five-door hatchbacks have grown only slightly in the same period, those manufacturers selling midi-MPVs in the largest numbers are seeing a decline in sales of their five-door hatches.

Since 2000, when the midi-MPV market started to mature, sales of GM’s Zafira have increased 24.2% while those of the five door Astra have fallen. At Citroen it’s even more pronounced, with Xsara five-door volumes dropping in the last three years while sales of the Picasso MPV have leapt up by more than 51.8%. The same trend is even visible at Renault, despite the fact that Scenic volumes have come under increasing pressure as a result of being first into the midi-MPV market.

In contrast Ford, without a C segment MPV, has seen sales of the Focus five-door increase by 21.9% since 2000. And the VW Golf, also without a MPV sister vehicle, was one of the two best-selling cars in Europe during April.

“We have begun to see an erosion of the five-door hatchback’s share of C segment volumes rather than just growth for the midi-MPV”, says JATO’s automotive division managing director Tony Hayes. “The possibility of a migration to midi-MPVs from hatchbacks is made all the more likely by the fact that, in general, the midi-MPVs are also five-seaters rather than offering something radically different in terms of accommodation. Only the Opel Zafira currently provides seven seats as standard, and Renault’s long-wheelbase derivative of the new Megane midi-MPV is unlikely to account for significant volumes.

“In addition, all the new introductions are focusing on driving dynamics rather than sacrificing this for accommodation which is rarely required. These two factors mean that moving to a midi-MPV can be a natural progression for the majority of consumers, and is likely to last.”