Archives for October 2014

Honda Accord next victim of crisis in midsize segment

Honda-Accord-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeHonda has confirmed rumors that the brand has no plans to develop a replacement to the European version of its Accord midsized sedan and station when the current eighth generation reaches the end of its life cycle. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the model’s sales have been decimated in the last decade. In 2004, Honda sold a record of 48.346 Accords in Europe, but that figure has dwindled more than 90% to a mere 4.467 units last year, while 2014 sales are off another 35% year to date.

The addition of Honda’s first in-house developed diesel engine in 2004 gave the model a much-needed boost, as more than half of all midsized cars sold in Europe are equipped with an oil burner, but it couldn’t save the Accord. Despite its reputation for undisputed quality, Honda’s midsized car was considered too expensive by most buyers, as Japanese production forced the brand to price the Accord against the premium offerings in the highly competitive midsized segment.… Continue Reading …

Datsun re-launch: a success or a failure?

Datsun-Go-Introduction-India-Carlos_GhosnA few days ago, Bloomberg reported that Nissan’s recently relaunched low-cost Datsun brand was failing in India, as consumers would be reluctant to spend their money on cars that have an image of being cheap, a similar problem that has plagued the Tata Nano. I think this article is a bit of an easy shot at Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Group, who’s known for his bold and ambitious goals, but who hardly fails to deliver on his targets. This makes him a sitting duck for journalists as soon as they can smell even a hiccup in his plans.

Focus on India

For one, the article focuses exclusively on India, which is the hardest market to crack, something Volkswagen has experienced as well. Local producer Maruti controls over 45% of the car market and therefore achieves great economies of scale and excellent brand recognition. Hyundai locks in another 16% of the market, which leaves the remaining 12 automakers, among which two other local brands Mahindra and Tata, to divide a pie of less than 800.000 annual sales among each other. Introducing a new brand in any market is not a short-term project, perhaps even less so in India, and Ghosn has understood that. With average car ownership still extremely low in India, Ghosn has been quoted to say “the risk is to do nothing” and to miss out on the enormous growth potential of this market in the future.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 3

Renault Espace

Renault-Espace-Paris-Auto_Show-201430 Years after the introduction of the groundbreaking first generation Espace and 11 years after the Espace IV, the long awaited fifth generation Renault Espace is shown as a production model in Paris. The exterior design isn’t exactly a surprise, as Renault have made no secret that the Initiale Paris concept car would be a clear indicator for the new Espace. That means it looks much less a large MPV and more a large crossover, although the Espace V will remain front-wheel drive only. After a number of canceled projects, the final production version will be built on Renault-Nissan’s Common Module Family platform that’s also used on the Nissans Qashqai and X-Trail and will be used for Renault’s version of the Qashqai as well as replacements to the Laguna and Megane line-up. That doesn’t sound good for the interior dimensions of the Espace, and from what I could see at the Paris Auto Show, the third row of seats is only suitable for little children, which leads to the question what the Espace has to offer what the Grand Scenic doesn’t. Renault has not yet announced plans for a stretched Grand Espace, but considering this was the most popular version of the previous model and also considering the cramped third seating row, it certainly would make sense to build such a version. European sales of the Espace peaked at just under Renault_Espace-Paris-Auto_Show-201465.000 units in 2004, but have declined to 8.200 sales last year. Renault anticipates 25.000 sales for the new generation, of which Germany and France would each take more than one quarter. But I don’t think those sales figures will be enough to outsell the Ford S-Max and take back the crown of the large MPV segment.

Skoda Fabia

Skoda-Fabia-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The third generation Skoda Fabia was the star of the Skoda stand, introduced as a five-door hatchback and a station wagon simultaneously, although the station wagon will arrive in showrooms a few months later. Renault and the VW group are the only ones to offer a station wagon version of a subcompact car, with the Renault Clio Estate, Dacia Logan MCV, Seat Ibiza ST as the only competitors to the Skoda Fabia combi. Skoda seems to have adopted the same design strategy that’s proven successful for Volkswagen and Audi, which is to slowly evolve the exterior design of their vehicles instead of trying to come up with a revolutionary new look. Skoda_Fabia-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The new Fabia is therefore still very recognizable as a Fabia, although critics may say that it looks too much like the old one. Nevertheless, the Fabia should again be able to peak at 200.000 annual sales in Europe, as both previous generations have done by a large margin.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 2

Jaguar XE

Jaguar-XE-Paris-Auto_Show-2014After the much maligned, but commercially relatively successful (9 years of production and 400.000 worldwide sales, of which half in Europe) Mondeo-based X-type, the Jaguar XE is the brand’s second attempt at a premium midsized sedan. This time they’ve developed the car from scratch and are hoping its rear-wheel drive layout will help make it the new benchmark of the segment in terms of driving pleasure. The XE will be equipped with an all-new generation of engines, also developed in-house, which will spread across the Jaguar-Land Rover line-up. The XE’s styling resembles that of the larger XF, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but they could’ve been a bit more flamboyant in my opinion. It absolutely looks stunning with the optional sport-pack but I think the standard version, like the white one on the picture, is a bit too uninspiring to compete in the tough premium midsize segment. However, making all their cars look alike has worked out for Audi for years, so I see why Jaguar chose to give the Jaguar_XE-Paris-Auto_Show-2014XE a familiar face. Jaguar is rather modest with their sales projections, as 30.000 units a year in Europe (of which two thirds in the UK) is meager when compared to the 200.000 sales of the BMW 3-series, but it would still make it the brand’s best selling model by far, and it would double total Jaguar sales in the continent.

Kia Sorento

Kia-Sorento-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Kia has shown the third generation of its Sorento large SUV, which has grown larger and wider, but is lower than its predecessor. The exterior design of the 7-seater has been softened, with a more rounded look to appear more crossover than SUV. The Sorento shares its platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Carnival large MPV, the latter of which is no longer available in Europe. Fuel economy has become increasingly more important in Europe, and as a result the large SUV segment has shrunk considerably in the past decade. The second generation Sorento has never been able to come close to the sales figures of the hugely popular first Kia_Sorento-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Sorento, which peaked at almost 45.000 units. I expect the new generation to reach no more than one third of that figure as well. But with European sales of the Hyundai Santa Fe limited to supply shortages, that means the Sorento should be able to lead the large SUV segment in Europe again.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 1

Fiat 500X

Fiat-500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Fiat has taken the covers of its 500X small crossover in Paris. It’s technically identical to its cousin Jeep Renegade, but they are completely different in styling. Whereas the Renegade shows the square and rugged lines of a true Jeep, albeit in a Playmobil size, the 500X is easily recognizable as a member of the Fiat 500-family, with its rounded and huggable looks. Both will compete in the fast-growing small crossover segment, and will stand out from their mostly French competitors thanks to an optional four-wheel drive system, which is expected to make up about 20% of the 500X’s volume. Fiat projects a volume of around 60.000 units in Europe, which would place it in 5th position of the segment. Fiat_500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The Renegade will add another 25.000 to that tally. Europe’s most important market for the 500X besides its home market Italy is France, as that’s where small crossovers are the most popular. But the biggest market worldwide will be the USA, which are expected to take about one quarter of 500X sales worldwide.

Ford Mondeo

Ford-Mondeo-Paris-Auto_Show-2014After having already been on display at the Paris Auto Show in 2012, the Ford Mondeo is finally ready to hit the European market. Even though its design is already almost three years old, it still looks fresh and from some bystanders I heard they liked it much better than the new Volkswagen Passat, which has been styled very conservatively. The engine line-up will start with Ford’s already famous 1,0 liter 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine which also powers the Fiesta and Focus. It offers more power and more fuel economy than the 1,6 liter 4-cylinder engine it replaces. This engine should prove especially popular in markets with government subsidies on the most fuel efficient vehicles. Besides the diesel engines, which will take the bulk of sales, Ford will also offer the Mondeo Hybrid. It will be priced similar to the diesel version, giving buyers who’d rather not drive a diesel an alternative powertrain. A plug-in hybrid version, as offered in the USA as the Fusion Energi, is not planned for Europe, but it’s ready to be launched if demand for such a vehicle justifies bringing it to the market. Ford-Mondeo-Wagon-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Ford has not disclosed sales projections, but it won’t be a secret they’re aiming for a number one spot in the midsize segment. But I don’t think the Mondeo will outsell the Passat and I see a potential for 150.000 sales per year in Europe for the Mondeo, the bulk of which will go to the UK and Germany.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis August 2014 – models

As you can read in the European car sales brand ranking for August 2014, Volkswagen enjoyed a particularly strong month of August, reaching a record market share. This is a result of strong performances from all of its core models, with the exception of the Up! minicar.

Volkswagen-Passat-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The next generation Volkswagen Passat midsized car will be introduced at the Paris Motor Show later this week, but run-out pricing of the outgoing model gave the Passat a last minute boost before handing over the moniker to its successor. VW also experienced strong demand for its European best seller the Golf as well as the recently updated Polo subcompact, which claimed a second place behind the Golf in the models ranking, outselling its rivals Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta was down into fourth position in August, but will make a strong comeback next month, as September is traditionally the second best month of the year for car sales in the UK, which is the most important market for the subcompact Ford.

And the Golf Sportsvan has stormed up the charts to aggressively take the lead of the midsized MPV segment in only its fourth month of sales, a result its predecessor the Golf Plus has never managed to accomplish.

Citroen-C4-Cactus-Geneva-Auto-Show-2014Any good news for other brands? Sure, it’s worth mentioning that the Citroen C4 Cactus has already outsold the regular Citroen C4 hatchback in only its third month of sales, although looking at the drop in C4 sales, it’s difficult not to wonder how many of these sales are intrabrand cannibalization.

In July, the Mercedes-Benz GLA outsold the BMW X1 for the first time, and I wondered if the GLA would be able to threaten the Audi Q3. Well, the small Mercedes crossover was already just a mere 275 units behind the Q3 in August. If it continues this strong performance, the GLA will lead the compact premium SUV segment as soon as September.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis August 2014 – brands

The European car market has celebrated its 12th consecutive month of year-on-year growth in August, as holiday season brought car sales to a virtual halt. A volume of just over 700.000 units means a 2,5% growth on last August, but a 35% drop when compared to July.

As August car sales are particularly soft in its home market of Italy, Fiat-Chrysler sees its July sales almost cut in half the following month. However, this is no reason to panic, as it is a yearly returning phenomenon, as the whole country comes to a virtual halt for four weeks during the holidays.

Volkswagen-Golf-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeAfter writing about Volkswagen’s dominance of the European car market just last week, the VW Group confirms its supremacy by claiming a record market share of 27,95% in August, up a full percentage point on the previous record, which lasted no longer than a single month. This strong performance is fueled mainly by the Volkswagen and Skoda brands, as Seat sales were up just 5,5% in August (compared to 12,2% Year-to-Date) and Audi even lost volume for the first time this year.… Continue Reading …