China car sales analysis May 2015

The cool-down of the Chinese auto market continues in May, with an increase of just 1,2% for the total market and 4% for locally produced cars, for a total of just over 1,5 million sales. Year-to-date, 8,6 million vehicles have been sold in China, of which 500.000 imports (not included in the figures below) and 8,1 million locally produced models. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Selling Rate (SAAR) for locally produced cars is up to 19,4 million units, from 19,1 million last month. May 2015 had 2 fewer sales days than the same month last year, which explains some of the decline.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Volkswagen_Lamando-sedanThe shift towards SUVs and crossovers keeps becoming more apparent, as sales of sedan models were down 10% to just over 900,000 vehicles, while sales of SUVs were up a whopping 44% to almost 460.000 units. MPV sales were up 8% to 140.000 units. The slowdown occurred despite several brands cutting prices of across their line-up, most notably General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford and Hyundai. Despite these cuts, GM saw flat sales at Buick and a decline of 24% at Chevrolet, while Ford was down 8,7% and Hyundai slipped 12%. Volkswagen was also down 12%, as the brand is hurt by its failure to respond quickly to changing consumer preferences, offering just a line-up full of sedans but just one locally produced SUV, while Chinese automakers are launching a handful of new, low-priced SUVs every month.

Even premium brands were not immune to the downward trend in Chinese car sales. … Continue Reading …

The end of the 3-door compact hatchback?

Compact-hatchback-3_door-Ford_EscortLet me take you back to some childhood memories: if you’re born in Europe, it’s very likely that your parents had a compact 3-door hatchback to haul you (and potentially your siblings) around in the backseat. In order to reach that backseat, one of the front seats had to be folded forward, giving you just enough space between the seat-back and the B-pillar to dive in. This also meant it was virtually impossible for adults to get in there, making the back seat your own little territory.

Then later, when you reached puberty and you got to borrow you parent’s car to go to clubbing with your friends, getting into the back brought glorious entertainment to all bystanders, even before anybody was drunk. Compact-hatchback-3_door-entrance-backseatThen on the way back, when one of the backseat passengers started to feel sick and the car needed to pull over, not having rear doors could mean you’d spend the rest of the way back in a sickening smell and you’d be cleaning the car interior for a few hours. Or when you started to get interested in girls and you’d get one warmed up for some backseat fun with you, stumbling into the back via that small opening could easily lead to a cooling of the mood before you even got in there together.

Well okay, not all of these memories may apply to you, but nevertheless it’s becoming ever less likely that our offspring will have similar character-building experiences, as it suddenly occurred to me that the compact hatchback is virtually dead. … Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis April 2015 – models

Renault-Clio-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeAfter exploring the April 2015 auto brands sales, we’ll take a closer look at the most successful car models in Europe. Naturally, the Volkswagen Golf is still Europe’s best selling model, but its sales are down year-on-year for the first time in 20 months, as the new 7th generation Golf is starting to mature. An amazing performance of the Renault Clio in second place, outselling its rivals Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Opel/Vauxhall Corsa by a large margin thanks to sales up 15,5%. This moves the Clio not far behind the Fiesta in the year-to-date ranking, giving it a shot at the #2 position by year-end, especially considering the Fiesta is starting to show its age. The Clio is in no way cannibalized by the introduction of the Captur small crossover two years ago, which continues its winning streak, improving another 20% on last year.

The Ford Focus hold on to the sixth place it already held last month, confirming the facelift is well-accepted by European car buyers. The Focus should be able to move into that same position by the end of the year, passing the Nissan Qashqai. Behind the compact Ford, the Volkswagen Passat returns to the top-10 for the first time since November 2012, while the Passat’s main rival the all-new Ford Mondeo is starting to gain traction, closing in on the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, but still a long way from threatening the Passat, which sells almost triple its volume.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis April 2015 – brands

In the first quarter of 2015, the year-over-year growth of the car market accelerated every month, but that streak ended in April, when car sales increased “just” 6,5% to 1,2 million units, taking the year-to-date improvement to 7,85% and 4.822.477 units. Still, it’s the 20th straight month of improvement, although the climb is much less steep than in the US, where the car market has already recovered to pre-crisis levels. All major markets contributed to the expansion, with huge differences between markets, as Italy grew explosively at +24,2% but France up a mere 2,3%.

Fiat-500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Renault-Nissan continues its stellar performance, adding the most volume in April and also passing Volkswagen Group to become the biggest gaining manufacturer year-to-date. FCA also improved greatly, thanks to the expansion of its home market Italy, but also thanks to overall excellent results for Fiat (thanks to the 500X) and especially Jeep, while the Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands continued to lose volume.

The fastest growing manufacturers are the ones with a low volume base, like DRB-Hicom thanks to the resurrection of Lotus, followed by Tesla Motors and surprisingly Lada, which has recently resumed sales in the Czech Republic and Hungary.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2015-Q1 EV and PHEV segments

The EV and PHEV segments are still the fastest growing in Europe, and the growth rate is even accelerating with sales of full electric cars up 64% and of Plug-in Hybrid cars up 150% on the first quarter of last year. Besides improving sales of most existing electrified vehicles, this is mostly a result of the introduction of new vehicles to these segments.

European-sales-EV-segment-VW_e_GolfThe Nissan Leaf is still the leader of the 100% electric cars, and the first EV ever to sell over 5.000 units in a quarter in Europe. The much more expensive Tesla Model S reclaims the second place it held in Q1 of 2014 before dropping to third in the full year 2014. The Model S had a blockbuster month in March, when it sold a record 2.363 units, and is likely to fall back into fourth place in the next few months, perhaps even as soon as April. The best selling EV newcomer is the Volkswagen e-Golf with over 3.000 sales, or just 2,4% of all Golf sales in Europe. The Golf outsells the Renault Zoe, which continues its strong monthly volume, which has greatly improved since last September for reasons discussed earlier.… Continue Reading …

New Merc GLC (née GLK) to finally take the fight to Q5, X3, XC60

It seems Mercedes is finally serious about gunning for class leadership with the new GLC, as the new car is a much better put-together proposition than its GLK predecessor. For starters, it eschews the awkward faux-Geländewagen boxy looks in favor of much more organic looks of the new C-class. In fact, I believe it automatically becomes the most handsome car in the class alongside the Porsche Macan, easily beating the somewhat awkward X3 and handsome but dated Q5.

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More than that, however, the new model seems to have all the advantages of the donor C-class, such as an advanced and lighter platform, gorgeous interior and sophisticated drivetrain options. And Mercedes will also finally offer the new car in the UK in right-hand-drive, in recognition of the importance of that market to compact premium SUV sales.

Continue Reading …

Why Skoda should become Volkswagen (for the US market) w/ POLL

Volkswagen’s struggles to sell cars in the US market at anything close to the rate its mainstream competitors are managing are well documented. Try as it may, the German manufacturer has been unable to punch beyond the niche of cars for people who want to be different and are willing to pay a little extra for the privilege. Its list of faux-pas is long: from bungling the local production of the Golf/Jetta in the 1980s that lead to myriad quality issues, through trying to sell cars that were too small and too expensive for the US market, all the way to missing out on the crossover wave. While the “right-sized” US/Chinese Passat and Jetta helped matters a little bit in the early 2010s, these cars have since slid back behind their competitors in terms of sales and appeal.

So, this might be the right time to try something drastic – rather than develop more US-specific cars or struggle with their Euro-centric line-up, VW should take Skoda’s mainstream offerings, rebrand them as VWs in the US and watch as they fly off the shelves.

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Sure, this is by no means a new idea, but arguably now it’s more true than ever, for five reasons:

Continue Reading …

European sales 2015-Q1 exotic and sports car segments

 

European-sales-exotic_car_segment-BMW_i8It’s happened. As predicted, the BMW i8 sweeps the exotic car segment, knocking down the previous leaders Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari 458 Italia off the top spot with a 37% share of the segment. In its introduction year, the i8 already managed to climb onto the podium, not far behind the 458, and its sales in the last few months of 2014 already indicated that the Plug-In Hybrid BMW sports car would be ultra-dominant this year.

With an average of 250 units a month in Q1, and with sales restricted by supply, BMW could easily sell more than 2.000 units this year, something no exotic has achieved since the Continental GT and the Ferrari F430 did so in 2008.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2015-Q1 Premium Large SUV segment

After growing 11% in 2014 on the arrival of the new BMW X5, the Premium Large SUV segment is up another 6% in the first quarter of this year, and the growth is shared much more evenly, with 10 out of 17 nameplates in positive territory (up from 7 out of 17 last year) and another all-new BMW as the fastest growing model in the segment.

European-sales-premium_large_SUV_segment-Mercedes_Benz-GLE_CoupeWith sales up 3%, the X5 adds sales but loses market share in the segment. It does hold on to the lead, as its main rival the Range Rover Sport also adds just 3% to its volume. One of the losers in the segment is the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, which will be replaced by the GLE early next year. It is kicked off the segment podium by the Volkswagen Touareg, up 26%. Mercedes will first introduce a GLE Coupe this year to compete with BMW’s X6.

After losing 27% off its volume in 2014 and being outsold by the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Porsche Cayenne is back up by 28% in Q1 of this year.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2015-Q1 Premium Compact SUV segment

As expected, sales of compact premium SUVs in Europe are booming thanks to a handful of new models and the continued improvement of existing players. After growing 11% to almost 300.000 units in 2014, the segment adds another third to its volume in the first quarter of this year. Extrapolating this growth rate to the full year, premium brands will sell almost 400.000 compact SUVs in 2015.

European-sales-premium_compact_SUV_segment-Volvo_XC60Volvo continues where it ended 2015 for the first time ever: on top of the ranking. The Volvo XC60 is up 26%, the highest of the top-5 and thus consolidates its new-found leadership. This is the only segment where Volvo clearly outsells its German competitors, which are even outsold by the Range Rover Evoque, although the Audi Q5 is likely to reclaim its #2 spot later this year, as the Evoque will be updated in the second half of the year. Besides that, the small Range Rover traditionally benefits from strong March sales in the UK to enjoy a strong first quarter. Remember it was the leader of the segment in Q1 of 2014?… Continue Reading …