US sales 2016 Mid-sized segment

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Sales in the Mid-sized segment fell by 10.1 percent in 2016, a performance so bad it almost matched the 11.0 percent fall in sales registered by the Minicar segment (the worst among all mainstream segments). Midsized cars used to be the segment where the money was made, even when SUVs and crossovers started to gain a foothold in the US car market during the 1990s and early 2000s. But that boom has started to pick up speed this year, fueled by hot new models and affordable gas. In contrast there haven’t been many major model updates in the midsized segment lately. As a result, the largest-selling segment in 2016 by far was Compact SUVs (sales up 3.9 percent),  with Mid-sized cars coming in second, followed closely by the Large Pickups and Compact segments (sales up 3.6 and down 4.5 percent, respectively). With new models like Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima failing to connect with buyers, only the new Toyota Camry and Honda Accord stand between the segment and losing third spot in the standings to the Large Pickups segment.

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New model introductions in China, December 2016

The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with almost 500 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands, as you can see in our 2016 Chinese car sales analysis. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the December 2016 China car sales ranking, we welcome 10 new models: 5 SUVs, 2 sedans, one MPV and an EV, including a new brand, the fifth domestic new brand this year (offsetting the demise of 3). As a bonus, I’ll also throw in an interesting 11th model which isn’t entirely new (it’s been on sale since July), but for which we didn’t have sales figures available yet.

Soueast DX3

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Soueast_DX3-SUVSoueast Motors, a joint venture of Fujian Auto, CMC of Taiwan and Mitsubishi, has struggled to reach sustainable volume in its home market, as its line-up of sedans based on out-of-production Mitsubishi cars failed to keep up with rising demands of Chinese car buyers. That changed in 2015 when the brand launched its first crossover DX7 Bolang, which was designed with the help of Italy’s famous design house Pininfarina, and which immediately became the brand’s best selling model with more than three quarters of total brand sales. In December, that model was accompanied by a smaller crossover called DX3, which also was co-designed by Pininfarina. In its first month of sales, the DX3 immediately outsold its larger sibling and the two crossovers took a combined 92,5% of Soueast volume, a very promising start for the newcomer that’s intended to double the brand’s sales in this year after topping 100.000 sales for the first time ever in 2016.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2016 Compact segment

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Sales in the Compact segment fell steadily throughout 2016, thought the rate of decline slowed down slightly as the year progressed. Still, sales in 2016 ended up 4.5 percent below the level reached in 2015, making this the first time that overall sales in the segment declined year-on-year since the market collapsed in 2009. Moreover, the decline is driven by most models losing sales to some degree or another, with only four cars that were sold all year long in 2015 and 2016 registering positive growth in 2016: Honda CivicNissan SentraSubaru Impreza and Kia ForteContinue Reading …

China car sales analysis 2016

China-car-sales-graph-2003-2016For years, analysts have predicted a slowdown of Chinese car sales. After becoming the world’s largest market in 2013, outpacing the United States, it was believed the market could not sustain its impressive growth record. Then halfway through 2015, the critics finally appeared to find reality on their side, when Chinese stock markets suddenly crashed and the economy stalled. Add to that a government crackdown on corruption and the recipe for a slowdown in car sales was ready. However, the central government stepped in and lowered the sales tax for vehicles with engines of 1,6 liters or smaller from 10% to 5%, starting from Q4 of 2015. That helped car sales peak recover and 2015 set yet another sales record of over 20 million passenger car sales. In 2016, the tax break continued and the market grew further, adding another 17% to 23,6 million sales.

Country of origin

  2016 Change 2016 Share 2015 Share
Domestic +27,4% 41,4% 38,1%
European +9,8% 22,4% 23,9%
Japanese +11,5% 16,0% 16,8%
US +13,9% 12,5% 12,9%
Korean +6,7% 7,6% 8,3%

60% of the growth came from domestic brands, as 9,8 million of the 23,6 million sales bore a badge from a Chinese brand, a record 41,4% of the total market. The previous record was 38,1% in 2015, which means local brands added 3,3 percentage points of share in a single year. Chinese brands increased their sales by 27,4%, more than double the growth rate of any of the other countries, as all saw their shares reduced. European brands took the biggest hit, losing 1,5 percentage points of market share to 5,3 million sales, with PSA Peugeot-Citroën as the biggest cause of concern. The American brands did best of the rest, losing just 0,4 percentage point of share to 2,96 million sales. Japanese brands sold 3,8 million cars in China in 2016 and South Korean brands sold 1,8 million units. All figures are for locally produced models only and exclude imports, which make up just 5% of the Chinese car market.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2016 Subcompact segment

Sales of subcompact cars rebounded slightly in the fourth quarter of 2016, growing by 2 percent relative to Q4’15, allowing the segment to cut the annual fall in sales to 3 percent. This is a very respectable performance for a segment where most cars are older designs, either in the second half of their life-cycle (Nissan VersaToyota Yaris) or about to be replaced (Chevrolet SonicFord FiestaHyundai Accent and Kia Rio). And while the segment still only sells less than a third of what the Compact segment manages, 2016 is notable as the first time that the Subcompact segment outsold the Minivan segment over the course of a year.

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China car sales analysis December 2016

China-car-sales-graph-december_2016It’s only fitting to see the Chinese car market end 2016 with yet another sales record broken: for the first time in history, more than 2,6 million cars were sold in the People’s Republic in a single month. To put this in perspective: this is almost as many cars as were sold in the UK in all of 2016, and over 900.000 units or 54% more than the 1,69 million cars US auto dealers sold in December, both figures are also records by the way. In relative terms, December’s 9,3% growth rate was the smallest since April and only the third time in 2016 the Chinese car market grew by less than double digits. Part of the explanation for this is that December 2015 was already a monster month, but still the Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Selling Rate came in at 25,1 million units, lower than the 3 months prior, reflecting December is traditionally the biggest selling month for Chinese car dealers. The sales tax break from 10% to 5% on vehicles with engines smaller than 1,6 liters which has fueled the market since October 2015 and which had been anticipated to be cut for 2017 will be phased out slowly to soften the blow next year. In 2017 these vehicles will incur a 7,5% sales tax before going back to 10% in 2018. Still, a more moderate growth rate is expected for 2017, especially in the first quarter. Then again, this is what experts have been predicting for a few years now, and somehow the market keeps proving them wrong.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2016 Minicar segment

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The Minicar segment in the United States has been hurt badly by the low gasoline prices in 2016, with sales down 11.0%, the worst fall from all the segments. However, the situation improved markedly for the segment in Q4, when it was the only segment to substantial growth (5.6 percent), driven mainly by substantial sales growth for models: Chevrolet Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage.

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Look-a-like: Kia Stinger and…

The Kia Stinger is probably our favorite car to debut at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, and with good reason – it is a powerful, RWD 5-door coupe which shows that Kia is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with Audi and BMW. Most important, though – it looks great, with a squat stance afforded by its width and low height, as well as a swept-back proportions that make it look as though it’s going fast even when it’s standing still. And it’s exactly that last part, those unique proportions, that to my eyes owe a debt of gratitude to another great-looking car, and not coincidentally a part-rival which the Kia will undercut significantly on price, if not looks…

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Predictions for 2017: US

Looking ahead, even one year, can be very tricky. Last year we nominated two brands as potentially doing well in 2016, and ended up being only half right: we correctly predicted Volvo‘s growth, but thought that Buick would do better than barely out-performing the market. We did even less well when predicting the disappointments of 2016 – both Cadillac‘s and Mitsubishi‘s sales in 2016 were not great, but still better than for many of their competitors. Cadillac’s sales may have fallen by 1.9 percent compared to 2015, but the brand still did better than Lexus (down 3.9 percent), Acura (down 8.9 percent) or BMW (down 9.5 percent). Mitsubishi did even better, with sales actually rising by 1.0 percent compared to 2015, better than many more fancied brands such as Mazda (sales down 6.7 percent), Chevrolet (down 1.4 percent), Toyota (down 0.7 percent) or Ford (down 0.6 percent). Time will tell whether we do better this time around!

1. Honda: success

Honda had a very good 2016, with growth its growth of 4.8 percent handily out-pacing the decline in sales among the three brands ahead of it (FordChevrolet and Toyota). This performance came from the sales growth in two new mainstream models: the Civic (sales up 9.4 percent) and HR-V (sales up 95.5 percent). The reason we can expect the good times to continue at Honda is that for 2017 it has three new models: CR-V (revealed in the fall of 2016), Odyssey (revealed in Detroit this week) and Accord (to be revealed soon). Of the three, Civic and Accord regularly rank in the top 10 of model sales, with the Odyssey adding another 100k+ of sales each year – it should thus be reasonable for Honda’s sales to go up significantly once all of those models hit the market.

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Detroit Auto Show: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [w/ poll]

Here’s our take on the hits and misses of the Detroit Auto Show, make sure to let us know what you thought in the poll and the comments section!

BMW 5-series

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Bart: Hit

Packed with new technology and undoubtedly again being one of the best driving sedans in its class, the new 5-Series will (depending on your personal preferences) either come close to or beat the standard set by the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But where the E-Class was mostly criticised for looking too much like its larger and smaller siblings, the 5-Series looks too much like the previous model. Did I miss the news that BMW hired a former Volkswagen designer? However, this doesn’t mean I don’t like its looks. With the right (M-Sport?) bodykit and wheels and a color a bit more inspiring than the obbligato fifty shades of grey, blue or black, this can be a very desirable looking car that will remain the obvious choice for the decreasing number of luxury buyers who still prefer a sedan over an SUV.

Kriss: So-so

I agree with pretty much everything Bart said, and yet I still can’t rate the BMW a “Hit”. Why is that? Objectively, the car has everything going for it – technology, BMW’s legendary chassis tuning, straight-six engines, and a smart and light construction (recently read a comparison test with the E-class, and saw that the 4wd 530d xDrive is 100kg lighter than the 2wd E-class 350d). However, subjectively the car is lacking that certain “want it” factor – the one that made the E34 and E39 generations so achingly desirable, no matter what specification or color they were in. While the E-class boast a stunning interior, the BMW looks too much like its predecessor inside; to me this is especially disappointing given that BMW showed us with the i3 and i8 of creating genuinely stunning interiors. Call it a case of sky-high expectations, but the new 5-series is just not a “Hit” to me.

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