SUVs and crossovers benefited most from Europe’s first rise in annual sales since 2007. Combined sales of models ranging from the Nissan Qashqai to the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka to the BMW X5 increased 21% last year to more than 2.5 million units, according to data from JATO Dynamics. That rise easily outpaced the overall market’s 5.3% growth to 12.8 million.
One out of every five car buyers in Europe chose an SUV or crossover last year, up from 17% in 2013.
Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said last month that the only global market with a stronger appetite for SUVs and crossovers is China, where the vehicles account for 26%of total sales.
Ghosn has been enjoying Europe’s shift toward SUVs and crossovers for years. The fun started in 2007 when the Nissan Qashqai helped establish a niche for vehicles that blended a compact SUV with a compact hatchback.
The Qashqai easily outsells all rivals in the compact SUV/crossover segment including the Volkswagen Tiguan and Toyota RAV4.
In 2014, the arrival of the Qashqai’s second-generation model pushed its sales to a new high of 204,500 units, JATO’s figures show.
The Renault-Nissan alliance also dominates Europe’s second-largest SUV/crossover segment with hot-selling subcompact-sized entries such as the Renault Captur, which was the 2014 leader with 165,868 sales, while the Nissan Juke ranked No. 5 last year after topping the segment in 2013, and the Dacia Duster finished third after being No. 1 from 2010 until 2012.
Ghosn expects Renault to join Nissan among the leaders in the compact SUV/crossover with the new Kadjar, which will have its first full year on the market in 2016. The Kadjar, which shares its underpinnings with the Qashqai, debuted this month at the Geneva auto show ahead of its market launch this summer.
Europe’s fastest-growing segment was electric cars, with a 79% rise to 60,408 units, but the niche’s overall value remains muted as EVs had a combined 2014 European market share of 0.47%, up from 0.28% in 2013. The Nissan Leaf was No. 1 followed by the Renault Zoe with the BMW i3 rounding out the top three.
Subcompacts remained Europe’s largest segment with sales up by 2% to 2.59 million units. The Ford Fiesta led the segment followed by the Renault Clio and VW Polo.
The VW Golf was Europe’s best-selling model with a volume that topped 500,000 units, which was twice as many as its closest rival, the Ford Focus.
In terms of losers, the boom for SUVs and crossovers hit small minivans, which shrank by 10% to 343,268 units, and compact minivans, which slid 3.2% to 664,197 units.