After a promising start of the year with an almost 10% gain in January, European car sales disappoint in February with a gain of just 2,2% to just over 1,1 million units, still the highest February volume since pre-crisis 2008. The big difference in January vs. February growth can be attributed to the number of business days, which were higher in January 2017 and lower in February, compared to the previous year. A better indication of the strength of the European car market would therefore be the year-to-date gain, which stands at +5,9% to 2,3 million units. Among the major markets, France (-2,9%), Germany (-2,6%) and the UK (-0,3%) lost volume compared to 2016, while Italy (+6,2%) and Spain (+0,2%) improved. Altogether, 8 out of the 30 markets lost volume in February. Among the smaller markets, Romania (+62,9%) and Greece (+56,9%) stood out with excellent performances. [Read more…]
Archives for March 2017
The new Audi Q5, as is pretty common with cars from the German automaker, got a bit of a mixed reception. Some people are tired of Audi cars always looking like updated version of the previous generation, rather than all-out new designs. Others, myself included, appreciate the new model’s tauter lines, good proportions, fine detailing, and most importantly the front view which is much better resolved than either on the old Q5 or the larger Q7. And it’s from the front that the new Audi looks a lot like another car that made its market debut a little bit earlier than it did…
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 January 2017 Chinese car sales ranking, we welcome 6 new models: 5 SUVs and a sedan and in the February 2017 ranking, we welcome 4 new models: 2 crossovers, an MPV and a sedan. A few of these models haven’t officially been launched yet, but show up in the rankings due to demo sales.
Baojun has launched a second new model in six months time and this 510 crossover is one of its best looking designs, especially from the front, with its squinting headlights that are visually connected to the grille by a chrome line. The sharp crease running from headlight to taillight and through the door handles makes for an attractive side design, together with the floating roof and the squared off wheel arches, although it should ride a bit lower to reduce the huge gap between the wheels and the arches.. Surprisingly, while a lot of these characteristics are familiar from other brands (Citroën, DS, Suzuki, Range Rover), the combination still looks like an original design. In the interior Baojun also shows it’s one of the more mature brands among domestics, with attractive design: an 8-inch screen on top of the center console in Mercedes-Benz style, Mini-style toggle switches underneath it and lots of “metal” frames. [Read more…]
After a stable January, Chinese car sales rise a promising 20,2% again in February 2017. This is a result of the Chinese New Year festivities, which alternate between January and February each year, so it’s better to look at combined figures of these two months before drawing conclusions about the strength of the Chinese car market. Thanks to 1,59 million sales in February, combined volume for the first two months of the year is up 7,6% to 3,76 million. This is still stronger than most analysts had predicted, as expectations for the first quarter of 2017 were in the low single digits due to the rise on sales tax on vehicles with small engines. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate of 22,68 million is the lowest it’s been since last July, but still significantly up 12% from the 20,25 million of February 2016. SUVs and crossovers are unsurprisingly the main winners with sales up 36,9% to 644.750 units in February (first 2 months: +18,9% to 1.496.712), while sedans gain 15,3% to 772.555 sales (first 2 months: +4,2% to 1.857.478) and MPVs lose volume for the second month in a row at -3,9% to 167.076 (first 2 months: -10,2% to 393.533). Sales of New Energy vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) jumped 30% in February, following a 74% decline in January when electric car subsidies were reduced 20%. This month, domestic brands also reach a new record share of 46,5% in February, breaking the previous high of 45,4% last December. For the first two months combined, domestics have a 44,4% share of their home market, the highest it’s ever been at this stage of the year. [Read more…]
When the Seat Ateca came out I remember being disappointed – the car is by no means bad-looking, but I felt it should have been much more adventurous than it turned out. By taking design cues from the Leon and stretching them over a more upright, formal crossover body the Ateca lost a lot of what made its hatchback sister model so handsome and attractive. But what really killed me is that that the Ateca looks less like a stablemate to the Leon, but rather more like a smaller, 5-seat version of…
After discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for February, let’s zoom in on the models.
It may only be February, but there is a clear picture emerging as to how the Top 10 will look like in 2017. As always, the top Top 3 is occupied by the domestic large pickups – in February Ram Pickup stumbled a bit, registering an uncharacteristically low growth rate of 1.3%, while Chevrolet Silverado recovered from a poor performance to record a growth rate of 17.1%. Next follow the compact crossovers – in some months, such as in February, the Top 4-6 positions will be occupied exclusively by such models. Of those the Nissan Rogue is emerging as the top performer, once again gaining over 50% in sales compared to the year prior, and placing 4th for only the second time in its history. The new Honda CR-V is gaining sales nicely, as is the Ford Escape which was facelifted early in 2016; less so the Toyota RAV4, whose relative under-performance combined with continued sales decline for its Corolla and Camry stablemates results in Toyota being shut out of the Top 6 for the second month in a row. It is a similar story for the other top brands and their compact and mid-sized mainstream offerings – Nissan saw sales fall for both the Sentra and the Altima, as did Honda for the Civic and Accord, though the brand that should really despair is Ford, with both the Focus and Fusion losing over 30% in sales compared to Feb’16, or Chevrolet, whose Malibu lost over 40% in sales (though the Cruze did gain 18.2%).
The Geneva Auto Show in the beginning of March is very likely to be the place with the highest density of supercars and concept cars in Europe at that moment. Even the smallest manufacturers, tuners and designers make it to the showfloor each year to show off their latest creations and try to steal some of the limelight from the major brands. That leads to an interesting mix that caters to everyone, from mainstream mass-production to hyperexclusive, from realistic to futuristic, and of eyepoppingly beautiful to eyewateringly unsightly. All this contrast means everyone must have an opinion, love it, hate it, or totally indifferent. We also loved a few, but not all of them. Here are a the ones that stirred us the most, be it in a good or a bad way.
Ferrari 812 Superfast
Is it an extensive facelift of the F12 or a completely new model? Ferrari wants you to believe the latter and has given the model a new name. And although the overall proportions and silhouette are very similar to the F12, the aerodynamics and engine are completely overhauled. At 800hp and 718Nm (529 lb.-ft), the engine is Ferrari’s most powerful V12 engine ever built. Displacement grew to 6,5 liters which means it has an output of 123hp per liter, the highest of any non-hybrid, naturally aspirated production engine ever made. The aerodynamics are another awesome feature of the 812 Superfast, as Ferrari strives to create downforce without using additional wings. There are a number of gaps in the front and side of the bodywork to create additional downforce, reduce drag or cooling purposes. Some are even equipped with active flaps to change the airflow through or under the car to fulfill different purposes at different speeds. The Ferrari mid/front engined V12 has always been the showcase of what the brand is capable of, but this time I watched in awe when they explained the aerodynamics and performance of the 812 Superfast. [Read more…]
Imagine you’re a car company on the brink. There was a time that you produced some great cars, but that was decades ago, so no one really remembers that. So you decide that you need to be bold, and rather than build another “me too” hatchback you design a bold mainstream crossover will put your name back on the map. Hell, you’re desperate for success, so you even decide to resurrect the nameplate from the most-loved sports car from your past. And since you’re already started copying to ensure the new model’s success, you figure “ah, what the hell, I should crib parts of the car’s styling from a car renowned for its looks”. You do some quick research into the most frequently Googled car name and you come up with the perfect inspiration!
After discussing European car sales for January 2017 by brand, let’s check out what the model ranking looks like in the first month of 2017. The leader Volkswagen Golf has stabilized its decline and stays firmly in control, no surprises there. Behind it, the three subcompact cars are within 1.400 units of each other with the Ford Fiesta still ahead of the Renault Clio while the Volkswagen Polo is in fourth place this year. VW makes it 3 models in the top-5 thanks to the Tiguan, which is only 3.000 units off the #2 spot, the closest any crossover has ever been. The Opel/Vauxhall Astra is in 6th place ahead of the Peugeot 208, while the Nissan Qashqai remains the #2 crossover in Europe with its best January ever. That leaves the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and Skoda Octavia to round up the top-10. [Read more…]
After discussing the Alpine A110, DS7 Crossback, Ford Fiesta, Kia Picanto, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Opel/Vauxhall Crossland X in part 1, we’ll continue with the second bunch of Geneva launches. Let us know what you think and vote for your favorites below!
See, they do now how to design a great looking car at Opel/Vauxhall, as the new Insignia proves. Wow, this thing looks more capable then ever to steal each and every one of those 12 private sales annually from the Passat. The rest of the sales in this segment are corporate orders from leasing companies, some of which limit their client’s choices, which means even if the Insignia is the better (and better looking) car, not everyone who wants one will be able to get it. Too bad, because its low and wide proportions and almost coupe-like roofline of the hatchback absolutely make this one of the best looking cars in the segment, right up there with or maybe even ahead of the Renault Talisman and miles ahead of the dull Passat and already long-in-the-tooth Mondeo. Who could’ve said that of an Opel just a few years ago? The Americans are drooling over this thing to make it Stateside again as the Buick Regal (including the Wagon) and that’s actually pretty impressive for a brand that’s been known as a maker of uninspired middle-of-the-road cars for decades. [Read more…]