Europe's relatively new premium compact SUV category is experiencing a breakthrough year in terms of sales as new models drive customers into the segment.
New launches by Volvo, Jaguar and BMW have helped to increase European sales to the point that they will surpass half a million this year for the first time, analyst firm LMC Automotive predicts.
The rapid pace of growth will eventually push sales past 700,000 by 2021, LMC forecasts, meaning the segment will have more than doubled from 2016's figure of just below 350,000.
"The segment has really taken off this year and it's set to enjoy further significant growth," David Oakley, EMEA analyst for LMC said. There is one big reason. "New model activity is driving this pace," he said.
The segment was created by the BMW X1 almost 10 years ago and the model continues to dominate sales, with 62,287 units in the first half, according to figures from market analyst JATO Dynamics. But threatening its crown are a slew of new-model launches in the sector.
The Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and DS 7 Crossback went on sale this year to give their brands a presence in the sector for the first time. The arrival of the BMW X2, meanwhile, gives the German brand a sportier variant and strengthens its sector leadership this year.
Later this year, the third-placed Audi Q3 will be replaced by an all-new model. The Q3 is key to Audi's lineup after becoming its No. 3-seller globally behind the Q5 midsize SUV and A4 midsize car.
The premium compact SUV segment's No. 6-seller, the Range Rover Evoque, will be replaced next year and another newcomer, the Lexus UX, goes on sale this month. Further into the future, Mercedes is preparing to replace its GLA following the launch of the new A-class compact hatchback on which the SUV will be based.
Alfa Romeo will enter the segment for the first time before 2022, the company said earlier this year. By that time, Alfa estimates the segment will account for 12 percent of the worldwide premium market.