The subcompact car segment is forecast to resume growth this year, rising to 23 percent of the overall European market from a 10-year low of 22.5 percent in 2014, when sales reached 2.6 million units. Analysts at IHS Automotive, however, predict that total subcompact sales won’t rise again to the record 28 percent share achieved in 2009, when many European governments responded to the global financial crisis by providing subsidies that heavily favored small cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
“The longer term weakness in share suggests that some customers are moving out of this category,” IHS analyst Ian Fletcher told Automotive News Europe. “Perhaps the biggest factor is subcompact crossovers.” In 2014, sales of small crossovers and SUVs rose 54 percent to 761,087 units. IHS predicts that this segment, topped by the Renault Captur, will rise to 1.3 million by 2020 to take a 9 percent share of the European market. By the same time, traditional subcompacts are expected to account for 23.2 percent of the market, just slightly above the forecast for this year.
Fletcher said another factor slowing growth of traditional subcompacts is the improving European economy, which is boosting consumer confidence and leading customers to move up to larger, more expensive segments.