The growing popularity of compact MPVs and hardtop convertibles is affecting sales of mainstream hatchbacks, a new report by the automotive market analysis unit of RL Polk Europe has found.
The company says that in 1990 cars in this sector represented three in four sales and by 2003 they had reduced to 50%.
This share will decrease further until 2020 but hatchbacks will continue to be the most popular body style in this class, the Polk study predicts.
It says: 'The rise of compact MPVs, such as the Vauxhall/Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso, will peak next year at 28% of the segment and level out at 25% by 2010. Opel, Fiat, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Renault plan to introduce off-roaders in this class for 2005 model year, and this should see off-road models take about 5% share in 2010, up from 1.1% last year.'
The study notes clear growth for 'retractable hardtops' with a number of new models scheduled for launch and their popularity they have for buyers. At present, only Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Vauxhall offer these.
The report adds: 'The lower middle-market will continue to be the most important in Western Europe until 2010, accounting for about 33% of sales, or 3.8 to 5.3 million units each year, depending on total annual sales.
'Most carmakers now have a stake in this sector. In 1990, only 25 manufacturers offered cars in the lower middle-market. By 1997 there were seven more including premium brands such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. This development produced a flood of new models, which reached its peak last year with 109 models in this class.'