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Market trends: The year buyers bought green

2006 was supposed to be the year the consumer went green – more small cars and fewer off-roaders. But what were the real trends of last year?

City cars did increase market share from 4.2% to 5.2%, but that was due to the impact of the new Toyota Aygo/ Peugeot 107/Citroën C1: with three big brands entering a small segment, it could hardly fail to grow.

Superminis also grew by one percentage point, but this was due to the large number of new models.

This rise in supermini penetration came at the expense of lower medium sales – lower medium models peaked last year following major new model introductions in 2004/2005 (Focus, Golf, etc), so the decline is simply cyclical.

However, there are no such excuses for upper medium models, whose sales fell by 12.4%. With physically bigger lower medium models (especially compact MPVs like the Zafira), off-roaders and all sorts of other niche vehicles to choose from, this segment is all about the management of decline.

Meanwhile, compact executive continued to make progress, with market share up from 7.0% to 7.1%.

Both executive and luxury models enjoyed better fortunes than for many years. That is hardly a sign of mass downsizing – rather it is a sign of the increasing use of diesel engines. The luxury segment is now 50% diesel and a typical diesel can do 35 mpg, so fuel economy is now hardly relevant.

Sportscars have had a fairly steady time. The years of rapid growth of luxury sports models are over, as all the significant new cars have now been launched.

With Bentley selling over 1,000 Continental GTs per year and Aston selling over 2,000 Vantages and DB9s, the room for further expansion is limited.

And so to the subject of a thousand newspaper editorials – the off-roader. Yes it did decline from 7.6% to 7.4%, but that still made 2006 the second best year ever for this segment.

So the overall picture for 2006 is a market that was largely immune to the controversy around downsizing and the environment.

Unfortunately, this has not gone unnoticed in Brussels and there is now talk of a mandatory CO2 limit.

This still looks unlikely in the next five years, but some sort of curb on emissions may be coming. The luxury segment was the fastest growing segment in the UK last year, which hardly seems sustainable either economically or environmentally.

2006 growth rate by segment

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