Paul Barker's blog: 29 April 2014 - Premium class
29 April 2014
The prestige end of the UK automotive market shows no sign of slowing its pace of change, with new and established players all desperate to improve their market share, much of which will come at the expense of traditional volume manufacturers as premium models come into the reach and appropriateness of more drivers.
In this issue alone we have the first pictures of Lexus's new small crossover, a test of the new Mercedes GLA small crossover, and a news story about how Infiniti is looking to raise its profile in the corporate sector ahead of its new small UK-built hatchback coming next year to rival the Audi A3.
And that's not counting the forthcoming upper medium Jaguar XE, BMW 2-series Active Tourer and X4, Land Rover announcing that the Discovery will grow into a family of models and Porsche's new Macan small off-roader.
It was interesting to chat to Lexus's new European boss a few weeks back, where he said the likes of the Audi A1 and Mini have established a premium market in smaller cars, so now premium cars don't have to be large, powerful machines - which means we can expect a small Lexus below the CT200h in the coming years.
But this all leaves the question of when does a premium brand becomes a volume brand? It's obviously not a worry just yet for Lexus or Infiniti, but the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes in particular will be very aware of the impact volumes could have on residual values, especially in balancing the company car appeal - be it through image, emissions or price - with forecourt demand in the future for three-year old models.