Family cars including the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo must up their fight in order to compete against more premium rivals such as the Audi A4

The likes of Vauxhall, Ford and Volkswagen must increase the appeal of their large family cars or risk being squeezed out of the sector by premium brands, according to the product marketing boss at Opel, Andreas Marx.

Sales of D-segment cars such as the Insignia, Mondeo and Passat have plummeted in recent years, as buyers have downsized, moved to more popular SUV body styles or switched to premium models such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, many of which are as cheap as their mass-market rivals to lease due to their better residual values.

In 2016 Passat sales in Europe fell 9%, Insignia sales 17% and Mondeo sales 11%. Of Europe’s top ten sellers in the segment, the only models to improve their sales were the Skoda Superb (up 70%), Renault Talisman (up 1783%) and Kia Optima (up 192%).

Marx said: “The premium sellers have encroached and they are trying to eat our lunch, but the fact is that these traditional segments are still big enough for us, and they will survive so long as we offer cars that are compelling.

“The new Insignia shows how we are trying to compete through innovation and technology – there is no reason to shy away from the battle, because we can offer everything our rivals do and more, for a better price.”

Marx cited the Insignia’s matrix headlights, ergonomic seats and OnStar telematics system as areas in which Vauxhall/Opel had fought back: “In terms of comfort, safety and technology we are very well advanced. There is work to do on perception.”

Marx also highlighted Vauxhall’s new ‘Exclusive’ personalisation offering as another example of how the firm was adapting. Via the scheme, buyers can customise their car’s paint colour beyond the standard options, as well as choosing different fabrics and seat and wheel types.

“These ideas might not be for every budget, but they demonstrate how a Vauxhall or Opel can be a desirable halo product. What you want, you can get – it’s not a trim level, but a customisation option,” said Marx.

Comment: People prefer premium car makers

Plenty of people would rather spend money on an upmarket car than other areas of their life. That’s why premium executive cars have flourished, helped by finance deals that have brought such cars to within reach for many more car buyers.

The Mercedes C-Class was Britain’s third bestselling car in April – a quite remarkable feat, especially when you consider none of its rivals were in the top 10.

The Insignia’s price and rear leg room might eclipse those of premium rivals, but on every other front, it’s got a major fight on its hands.

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Insignia

The Vauxhall Insignia is only small details away from rivalling the class best

Join the debate


1 June 2017
The traditional D segment, once the king of the repmobile, is under attack from premium brands as a 3 series or C class can be business leased for the same - or less - than a Mondeo/Insignia.

Then private buyers, the C segment has grown such that they are as big as a D segment saloon/hatch used to be - private buyers may find that an Astra or Focus has all the space they'll ever need.

Private buyers who do want something bigger are no longer taking the traditional path of buying bigger, but rather taller, as C segment-footpring SUV/crossovers are absolutely booming. Manufacturers such as Nissan and Honda axed their large cars to make room for such vehicles.

1 June 2017
Premium means better residual values. It's always been true that many 3 Series or C Class models will cost the same or less to own over a two or three year period than a cheaper mainstream rival, despite apparently costing more in the first place. What has changed is simply that because most new cars are bought on leasing schemes nowadays, and the cost is derived from taking into account both purchase price and retained value, it's become obvious to the average buyer.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the premium manufacturers perceive this as an opportunity to raise their prices over coming years. They are probably vain enough to think that they should be more expensive, and if they do that, perhaps there will be less sales conquests from mainstream rivals. However, the whole market appears to be headed towards SUVs anyway, so as far as conventional large saloons goes, it's moot.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    21 March 2018
    The new Vantage has been developed as a Porsche 911 beater, and our first taste on UK roads suggests it can live up to that bold claim
  • Nissan Leaf Tekna
    The is the new Nissan Leaf
    First Drive
    21 March 2018
    The new version of the world's best-selling electric car gains a bigger battery and more power. How does it compare to rivals such as the Volkswagen e-Golf?
  • Range Rover p400e
    First Drive
    20 March 2018
    The original luxury SUV is now available as a plug-in hybrid, promising lower emissions and the capacity for silent electric motoring
  • BMW i3s
    Car review
    20 March 2018
    Revised hatchback sets out its range-extended electric stall in a new, sportier tune
  • BMW X2
    This is the new BMW X2
    First Drive
    20 March 2018
    Doesn’t deliver many typical crossover selling points but looks perky, handles keenly and is well capable of winning over your latent cynic