Strong demand for new compact SUVs from Volkswagen, Peugeot and Seat combined with the successful refresh of the Ford Kuga have helped to increase European sales in the sector by more than a quarter in the first nine months.
The pace of growth means the segment will reach a new record of 1.8 million units by the end of the year, up from 1.5 million last year, analyst firm LMC Automotive believes.
This year's growth spurt will be difficult to match in the coming years, but sales are still on track to top 2 million by 2020, the company expects. That will help push SUV sales overall to "well over" a third of the European market by 2021, up from a quarter today, LMC analyst Sammy Chan said.
The Nissan Qashqai maintains its lead in the segment but it has faced its toughest challenge in years from the Volkswagen Tiguan. VW's launch of a new generation of its top-selling SUV has increased Tiguan sales 45 percent in the first nine months, figures from market analyst JATO Dynamics show.