Archives for July 2017

US sales 2017 first half: Mid-sized segment

Only Outback and Passat see their sales rise, five models lose more than 20% since 2016


Sales of Mid-sized cars in the US fell by 13.7% in the second quarter of 2017, following the same path of double-digit sales decline as all the other mainstream segments bar the compact segment. With one-time top non-pickup models like Toyota CamryHonda Accord and Nissan Altima now regularly giving way to crossovers in the monthly top rankings, it is far from clear whether the latest versions of the first two cars, which made their debut earlier this year, will be enough to even halt, let alone reverse this trend. One thing is for sure: they will need to do better than recent new models in the segment – Hyundai SonataKia Optima and  Chevrolet Malibu –  all of which have really underperformed relative to their previous generations.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Summer 2017, part 2 [w/ poll]

We’ve discussed a handful of new model introduction of this summer in part 1, and will continue with a few other newly launched cars that we think will either hit, miss or just don’t stir our senses at all. This is a series all about opinions on a site totally dedicated to facts, just to balance it off a bit. Here we’ll give our views on new cars and invite you to give yours, be it in the poll at the bottom or in the comment section below. Fortunately, every opinion is personal so even Kriss and I don’t always agree and we hope you don’t either.


BMW 6-Series Gran Turismo

Bart: hit

I get it, the 5-Series GT, which was actually based on the platform of the 7-Series, has been more of a commercial success than it was an aesthetic success. And by renaming it 6-Series they can make the new generation more expensive, because it has a higher number. Cynicism aside, this car should’ve been called the 6-Series GT since the first generation. And I get why that appealed to the people who’ve bought one: it was more spacious and almost as luxurious and comfortable as a 7-Series for less money, all while being less ostentatious than said 7-Series. And there are plenty of shoppers in this price range who couldn’t care less about the looks of their car, as long as it did best what it’s been bought for. With the new generation they’ve actually succeeded in designing a somewhat graceful car, thanks to stretching it by almost 9cm (3 inches) and lowering it by 2cm (almost an inch), which makes it a lot less bulky than the 5-Series GT. I’m actually starting to warm to this car the more I look at it. And it’s also a great alternative for those who’d love to drive a comfortable BMW and can do without the sportiness that BMW has to put into the 5-Series sedan (and wagon) in order to keep its reputation of maker of sports sedans.

Kriss: so-so

I have mixed feelings about this car. From a rational, sales-oriented perspective, BMW did exactly what it had to do to build on the moderate success of the first generation – it based it on the tour-the-tech new 5-series, made it better-looking (less ugly?), and gave it a posher name. But it remains, at its core, a fundamentally contrived and ungainly car, sort of a 5-series for people who will benefit from the extra space and the easier entry/exit that the higher driving position affords (so, basically, plus-sized and older people). And while the 6-series GT is less environmentally-unfriendly than SUVs, it makes for a much less attractive look on the roads.

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US sales 2017 first half: Compact segment

Compact segment lost more than 11%, as only 4 out of top-10 improve US-sales-compact_car-segment-2016-Chevrolet_Cruze-Honda_Civic-Nissan_Sentra-Hyundai_Elantra-Mazda3

The Compact Car segment accelerates its decline with a 14% loss in Q2 of 2017, which leads to a 11% decline in the first half to 1,704,812 sales. This is still the lowest decline of all mainstream sedan segments. The top-3 players, the Japanese elephants in the room, which take a combined 26.6% share of the segment, all improve their share of the segment as they fall with just single digits. There are two more models to sell over 100,000 units in the first half: the Chevrolet Cruze and the Hyundai Elantra, while the Ford Focus dips below that threshold. Two electrified newcomers are off to a shy start.

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China car sales analysis First Half 2017

China-car-sales-graph-H1_2017In the first six months of 2017, Chinese car sales are up just 3% to 10,93 million. If the market maintains this growth rate, it will become the lowest increase in more than 13 years and possibly in more than 25 years. And there’s reason to believe it will come to that scenario, if you look at the sales curve in the second half of 2016, with increasing sales in the last quarter due to a pending increase in sales tax on cars with engines smaller than 1,6 liters, from 5% to 7,5%. Then again, that same tax will rise again in 2018 to 10%, so sales may show a similar curve in Q4 of 2017 as consumers pull forward their buying decisions to benefit from the lower tax. Back to the first half of 2017, in which crossovers and SUVs gained 14,9% to 4,41 million sales, while sedan sales were down 2,5% to 5,42 million and MPV sales slumped 9,4% to 1,09 million. Of these 10,9 million total passenger car sales, 42,3% came from domestic brands and 57,7% from import brands, compared to a ratio of 41,3% vs. 58,7% in all of 2016, as sales of foreign brand vehicles have slightly dipped while sales of local brands have continued to rise, especially thanks to the introduction of a range of afFordable crossovers by almost every single brand.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Honda_URV-SUVBut that doesn’t paint the complete picture, as European brand sales have remained virtually stable at +0,85% and US brand sales have improved only slightly better than the overall market at +3,86%. The big shift has taken place between Japanese brands and South-Korean brands, as the former are finally starting to recover from their troubles during a diplomatic spat between China and Japan in 2012 over a few islands in the East China Sea, even though only Honda and Mitsubishi have returned to the market share they held in 2011. Still, Japanese brands have grown at a pace of +16,36%, double the gains of the domestic brands, while Korean brands were the only nation to lose volume at a terrifying -46,7%. The reason for that demise has been explained in our monthly reports for the last four months, but there’s another underlying reason which has been going on for a longer period. The South-Korean brands never achieved the kind of mainstream status in China as they did in Europe or North America. They remained a low-cost, low quality option for customers who wanted an import-brand vehicle without having to pay the premium for an actual established brand from Europe, the US or Japan. When the domestic brands started to improve their quality and subsequently their brand image, and also started launching a huge number of afFordable crossovers to satisfy the demand for this type of vehicle, the Koreans were left behind as customers proved less brand loyal than expected. Especially Hyundai has been left behind in this race as its partner Beijing Automotive keeps on expanding the brand’s sedan range to no less than 9 models of different generations sold alongside each other with a 10th nameplate coming up, compared to just 4 crossovers. When recovering from the anti South-Korean sentiment, both brands need to be quick to launch afFordable crossovers to the Chinese market or risk facing reduced market shares for years to come.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Summer 2017 [w/ poll]

After each motor show Bart and I put together our thoughts on the latest debuts, looking at them from the perspective of someone who’s passionate about motoring, but also trying to peer into our crystal balls and see whether each model will be a market success or a dud. This time, though, we’re running the article off-season, following a period of a few weeks when a few crucial cars made their debut.

Audi A8

Kriss: so-so

To me the new Audi A8 is a very frustrating car, because there is so much here that is interesting and truly cutting-edge, and yet the end product is not that you would call a “slam dunk”. On the plus side, the new car will offer the possibility (key phrase, will come back to that latter) of Level 3 autonomous driving, it features a top-drawer mechanical setup with a fully-hybridized engine lineup, a new design direction and, as always, a stunning interior with a world-first feature… the foot massager for rear passengers. OK, so that last things is a bit of a joke, but you sort of have the feeling that they threw the kitchen sink at the A8 to make it stand out against the 7-series and S-Class. But it’s not whether they’ve done enough, it’s whether they did it well enough that has me worried for this model. And so, the much vaunted “new design direction” amounts to little else than, at the risk of oversimplification, some extra creases, a super-wide front grille and a car-wide LED strip at the back. The interior is also a mixed bag: it features some really bold shapes and touch-screen controls that appear to be as good as it gets, yet overall it’s hard to escape the feeling that it all feels like a Passat Plus Plus. And to top it off the claim of Level 3 autonomy is misleading – yes, the car has the capability to do it, but right now no country will allow it, so in effect you’re buying tech you can’t (yet) use. 

Bart: so-so

I have to agree with Kriss on this, the A8 has never reached the same status as its two German rivals, even though the Audi brand as a whole has moved up to par with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and even though every generation has been up there from a technology perspective. As Kriss explained, this won’t change with the new generation, which will go further in autonomous technology than any other car has ever gone so far, although there is one way in which the new A8 appears to take a (small) step back: ever since the first generation, the A8 has prided itself on its Aluminium Space Frame which reduced weight in order to compensate for the A8’s standard all-wheel drive technology compared to the rear-wheel drive setup of its competitors. In the outgoing generation, 92% of the bodyshell was made of aluminium, but this will be reduced to just 58% in the new generation, increasing the weight of its body from 230kg (509 lb) to 281kg (621 lb), even despite the use of some carbon fiber for the rear seat back. This is the result of steel offering better crash protection for the batteries of the plug-in hybrid version. In terms of design, the A8 makes a larger step from its predecessor than Audi’s recent launches A4, A5 and Q5, but Audi remains very conservative in a segment where buyers are more open to daring design than you’d expect (p.e. BMW 7-Series E65, Porsche Panamera).

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China car sales analysis June 2017

China-car-sales-graph-June_2017After two months of small declines, the Chinese car market returns to a modest growth with sales up 3,2% to just under 1,79 million units. However, there have been reports that the June sales figures are artificially boosted by heavy discounts as 2017 sales threatened to lag behind 2016. Again, crossovers and SUVs are the only type of vehicle to improve year-over-year, with a 16% increase to 741.400 sales. Meanwhile, sedan sales were down 4,3% to 883.000 and MPV sales dropped 3,7% to 163.700 units. Within those sales figures, electric cars and PHEVs also showed a nice improvement of 33% in June to 59.000 units, of which 48.000 EVs and 11.000 PHEVs. For the first six months, sales of New Energy Vehicles totaled 195.000 (160.000 EV and 35.000 PHEV), an improvement of 14% due to a slow first quarter when the government reduced tax incentives on this type of vehicle. New Energy Vehicle sales represented less than 1,5 percent of China’s total new-vehicle volume in the first six months, but the Beijing government holds on to its target of 6,7% in 2020 and as much as 20% by 2025, helped by a carbon credit scheme that will be imposed in 2018.

The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in June stood at 23,2 million, up from the last two months and the third-highest figure of the year so far. The share of domestic automakers was similar to that of May at 40% as all the growth in the market came from domestic brands while sales of import brand cars were stable. Year-to-date, the share of domestic brands now stands at 42,25%. First half car sales in China now total just over 10,9 million units, an increase of 3% on the first half of 2016. However, average transaction prices dropped 4% over the first half of 2017.


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US sales 2017 first half: Subcompact segment

Subcompact segment lost more than 20%, and only Toyota-branded cars gained any sales 

Sales in the subcompact segment in the United States continued falling in the second quarter of 2017, dropping by 250,395 units for the first half of the year. This represents a fall of 20.8% compared to the first half of 2016, the second fastest rate of decline from among the mainstream segments, behind only the minicar segment. Part of the reason is that a lot of the cars in the segment are either about to be replaced (Chevrolet SonicFord FiestaHyundai Accent and Kia Rio) or are in the second half of their life-cycle (Nissan VersaToyota Yaris), but really it’s the gradual migration to crossovers that’s the more likely reason of this trend – the subcompact SUV segment grew by 10.6% percent over the same period, and sold more than 200,000 units in half a year for the first time ever.

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US sales 2017 first half: Minicar segment

Minicar segment collapsed in the second quarter of 2017, with only Mitsubishi Mirage recording YTD sales gains


After briefly returning to growth in the first quarter of 2017, the Minicar segment in the United States fell back into the red in the second quarter of this year. And what a fall it was – sales fell by almost a half compared to Q2’16, to only 19,019 units, the largest fall from among all segments by a wide margin.

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US sales: June 2017, models

After discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for June, let’s take a closer look at the models ranking.

Top 10

Chevrolet_Equinox-2018-US-car-sales-statisticsAfter three months of being outsold by RAM Pickup, Chevrolet Silverado finally got the better of its historically worse-selling rival in June thanks to some positive sales growth, re-opening a gap of over 10,000 units in the YTD sales race. Just behind Nissan Rogue was back in fourth spot, similarly opening up a wider gap to its closest competitor, Honda CR-V, which performed very poorly in June, ranking only 11th on the back of a 4.3% fall in sales. The big surprise is the car that pushed it out of the Top 10: sales of the new Chevrolet Equinox were almost half up on what they were for the old car this time last year. However, only time will tell whether the new crossover will indeed be a home run for Chevrolet, given the topsy-turvy sales ride that its sister model, the Cruze (whose sales fell by over 30% in June, relative to a gain of over 30% until May).

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European car sales analysis May 2017 – models

Dacia_Sandero_Stepway-2017-European-car-salesAfter looking at the May 2017 car brand ranking in Europe, let’s discuss sales figures of individual models. The first thing to notice is that the market leader Volkswagen Golf scores its first single-digit loss since last January, after 3 months with double digit losses of which April was the worst with a decline of 28,3% (or almost 14.000 sales less than April 2016), although it must have hurt more that the Golf was outsold by the Ford Fiesta in March. The facelifted version is now fully available and VW’s compact hatchback (and station wagon) can continue its dominance of the European car sales charts. In May its smaller sibling Polo was in 2nd place, just ahead of the Renault Clio, both above 30.000 sales for the second time this year. The Polo will be facelifted later this year, the Clio has just been freshened. Meanwhile, the new generation Fiesta is just entering dealerships across Europe and should start to make an impact later this year. For now the Fiesta is stuck in 4th place, ahead of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the biggest loser in the top-10 at -8,2%.… Continue Reading …