Where do Alfa, Lancia, Saab and Volvo fit best?

Luca Ciferri is an Automotive News staff reporter based in Turin, Italy.
Before Automotive News Europe started on the 2009 European market segmentation project, we asked readers for their views on this question: Where do so-called “near-premium" brands belong?

We wanted to know whether the readers believe Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Saab and Volvo should be placed in the same segments as models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi? Or, do they belong in segments with automakers such as Volkswagen, Ford and Renault?

The ANE editorial team has always placed the near-premium brands in the premium segments and that is where those carmakers should stay, according to the majority of the comments we received.

Below are some of the more interesting views our readers shared.

• Ricardo Oliveira from Portugal wrote that the use of a common technical platform should not stop a car from being considered premium, “because one day all carmakers will share the same platform in each market segment.”

• Claudio Perlini from Brazil wants the four brands to remain in the premium segments even if they are re-worked Fiats (Alfa, Lancia) Opels (Saab) and Fords (Volvo), because, he said, “What is Audi in the end? A rebadged VW!”

• Gianpaolo Altafini from Italy doubts the future of Lancia, which sells few cars outside of its home market. He added that Lancia “as a premium brand is long dead.”

• Victor Rainaldi from France classifies Alfa and Volvo as premium brands because he believes French buyers “rate them above the domestic brands.” He does not believe Saab and Lancia are premium.

• Jan Leskinen from Finland wrote that in his country “Volvo is an even more desired premium-brand car than BMW, Audi or Mercedes.” He added that Alfa, Lancia and Saab are not viewed as premium cars in Finland.

• Alexandros Kostiroglou from Greece proposed the addition of a grouping for “semi-premium brands,” where he would put Volvo, Alfa, Saab, Lancia -- and Lexus.

• Clive Goldthorp from the UK proposed a three-level segmentation that includes Elite: Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Daimler, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maybach, Porsche and Rolls-Royce; Prestige: Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Lotus, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz; and Premium: Alfa Romeo, Honda, Jeep, Lancia, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, Saab, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo.

We want to thank our readers for taking the time to share their views on European vehicle segmentation, a subject that we know will continue to spark debate as more premium brands move into down-market segments and more volume brands try to move upmarket.