The newcomer is winning the prize in Europe's off-road boom.
Honda made no sport-utilities until three years ago. The CR-V was only introduced in Europe last year.
Now Honda's CR-V leads the pack. After nine months of European sales, the CR-V has jumped to the front of the segment ahead of the long-time leader, the Suzuki Vitara.
Six of the Top 10 off-roaders are Japanese brands. Jeep, the most famous name in the segment, has only its Grand Cherokee, whose sales are declining. The Ford Explorer, best-selling off-roader worldwide, doesn't make Europe's list at all.
Among the grand names of off-roading, only Land Rover has a hot model. Its smaller Freelander, introduced a year ago, contributed 26,000 units of growth to the segment.
The 4x4 segment grew 26 percent in the first nine months, compared with a year earlier.
Among the Top 10, both the Land Rover Discovery and the GM Frontera lost sales. Next-generation models cannot come a moment too soon.
Can the boom last? In the USA, the answer has been yes. High fuel prices in Europe discourage its growth, but manufacturers respond with smaller, more fuel-efficient models. In Japan, Honda has just introduced its HR-V, a smaller version of the CR-V.
The lower-medium segment is up 17.3 percent, more than 460,000 units, thanks to the new GM Astra and VW Golf. The addition this autumn of the new Ford Focus will continue the growth momentum.
Happily for profits, the upper-medium segment, most of the luxury segments, sports cars and minivans have grown also. Those are the segments where manufacturers have the best profit margins.
Small cars are down. Minis and superminis are both running behind sales a year ago, where incentives in Italy propped them up.
Here are the highlights of the rest of the segments after nine months:
The Ford Ka continues to lead the segment. (The Peugeot 106 has been reclassified to compete in the supermini segment, with its sister car the Citroen Saxo.)
Fiat's changeover to the Seicento, along with the end of incentives in Italy, contributed to a sharp decline in sales, and the Seat Arosa is starting to regain its volume after its move from production in Wolfsburg, Germany to Martorell, Spain.
The segment could achieve growth in the year as a whole, when the VW Lupo reaches the market.
The Renault Clio 2 is the only star in a segment that is otherwise stagnant. Orders for the Clio 2 are still running strong. Although the Fiat Punto lost sales, it remains the champion of the segment. It was introduced in November 1993, and Fiat recently built Punto No. 3,000,000. Last year, boosted by incentives, it was Europe's best-selling car.
The Volkswagen Golf got off to a slow start, but it now is achieving the sales Chairman Ferdinand Piech has always foreseen. Golf sales for the year are up 18.4 percent, and it has taken the segment lead from the Renault Megane. The Citroen Xsara is also reaching its stride.
Although the GM Vectra retains its lead, the Volkswagen Passat is close behind and gaining. The Toyota Avensis is easily outselling the Carina, which it replaced at Toyota's UK factory, and it has carried Toyota into the Top 10 for the first time. In the segment, the Avensis outsells the Primera, just as in Europe, Toyota now outsells Nissan.
The GM Omega continues to dominate a shrinking segment. Omega sales are ahead of last year's.
The Renault Espace, boosted by sales of its stretched version, has taken the lead in the segment.
A year ago, the VW Sharan had the title, but now the Sharan has even slipped behind its sister car, the Ford Galaxy. The shifting relationship of sales between the Sharan and the Galaxy shows the influence of marketing factors, as the products are identical. The successors of those two minivans will reflect new strategies, as VW and Ford have split up their joint-venture making the cars.
Like 4x4s, this segment is enjoying a boom. Its growth of 11.9 percent is well ahead of the general 6.7 percent increase in the market.
Mercedes-Benz dominates, with its CLK and SLK in the top two positions, well ahead of less-expensive rivals from Ford and GM.
However, the Mazda MX-5 shows the staying power of less-expensive sports cars with an attractive design. The new MX-5 has contributed to a surging 58.7 percent gain over year-earlier sales of a 10-year-old model.
Alfa Romeo's 156 is the star, with sales six times higher than those the 155 achieved.
The new BMW 3 series is helping the car that defines the segment climb toward the top, but the Audi A4 continues to hold the lead. Volvo's S40/V40 and the Saab 9-3 also grew ahead of the market.
The Audi A6 and the Saab 9-5 are trying to rise into the upper ranks, both growing by more than 50 percent over last year. The leaders, the Mercedes-Benz E-class and BMW 5 series, are both slipping. Their declines caused the whole segment to stagnate.
The No. 2 Jaguar XJ series is climbing and No. 1 BMW 7 series is slipping, but the 24 October arrival of a new Mercedes-Benz S-class could change the picture by year-end.
Although its volume is tiny, interest in this category is huge. Volkswagen and BMW went into a bidding war for Rolls-Royce/Bentley and in the end decided to split the spoils.
Bentley and Rolls-Royce will split apart in 2003, Mercedes-Benz said it would build its Maybach, and Volkswagen showed a new Bugatti at the Paris auto show.
As all the players are owned by bigger companies, it could become a battleground over prestige, not profits.