Their volumes may be small but their sales rises are significant.
Respect is due to Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Lamborghini. All the super-luxury marques put on sales in January-September 2000 compared with a year ago.
In an erratic nine-month sales period punctuated by spectacular highs and dismal lows, the consistent performance of the super-luxury brands stood out. Super luxury was the only segment to report positive sales wherever you looked, from Ferrari (+9.2 percent) through Lamborghini (+17.4 percent) to Aston Martin (+43.5 percent).
Back in the world of mainstream carmakers, sales trends identified earlier in the year became even more acute.
The crucial upper-medium category continued in the doldrums. Out of the top 10 best sellers, only Skoda Octavia sales rose (+3.3 percent). Double-digit percentage point declines were reported by the Citroen Xantia (-29.1 percent), GM Vectra (-23.1 percent), Ford Mondeo (-19.6 percent), Renault Laguna (-15.55 percent) and VW Passat (-10.2 percent).
But the raft of new models seen at September's Paris auto show may stimulate a revival of the upper-medium segment.
There was more bad news for GM in the lower-medium segment, with Astra sales plummeting 18.5 percent. The one bright spot for GM was the performance of its Zafira, which has now established itself as the clear No. 2 in the compact minivan category.
Land Rover's Freelander continued to top the sport-utility sales chart. But the big surprise in the segment was the performance of the premium-priced Mercedes-Benz M-class. Its sales climbed 43.1 percent to overtake rivals such as the Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee, Honda CR-V and GM Frontera. The M-class is now western Europe's third best-selling sport-utility.
In the mini category, sales fell for the top three cars, the Fiat Seicento (-8.3 percent), Renault Twingo (-19.5 percent) and Ford Ka (-9.4 percent). But the trendy MCC Smart confirmed its growing popularity with sales up 52.6 percent, outstripping the Fiat Panda and VW Polo.
Fiat's new Punto comfortably topped the supermini segment. With sales of 454,339, its was 32,188 units ahead of its nearest rival, the Peugeot 206. Renault's Clio, the No. 3 supermini, declined almost 6 percent. The Toyota Yaris continued its impressive sales performance.
While the sales collapse continued throughout the full-size category, lower-luxury cars enjoyed mixed fortunes. The BMW 3 series remains the runaway segment leader, more than 80,000 units ahead of the Audi A4 in second place. A4 sales fell 13.8 percent. The Lancia Lybra and Rover 75 picked up sales at the expense of the Alfa Romeo 156 and Volvo S40/V40.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi confirmed their dominance in the medium- and upper-luxury segments. The German marques occupied the top three positions in both categories.
Mercedes-Benz also remained the runaway leader in the coupe/roadster, specialty segment. Its CLK continued to perform consistently, and that was enough to repel the challenge of the hot-selling BMW 3 series Coupe. Hyundai Coupe and Audi TT sales climbed by 24.2 percent and 9.2 percent respectively. But there were significant declines for the VW New Beetle, Ford Puma, Mazda MX-5, BMW Z3 and GM Tigra.
Compact minivans continued to take sales away from their full-size siblings. Of the top 10 full-size minivans, only the Peugeot 806 and Mazda MPV put on sales. The category as a whole fell 15.7 percent.
By contrast, compact minivan sales rose 61.4 percent. The car that defined the segment, the Renault Scenic, is still No. 1. Scenic sales were up 21.1 percent.
There were also good results for the GM Zafira, Fiat Multipla, Mazda Premacy and Citroen Berlingo multispace.