Ford to switch US Focus production to China instead of Mexico

Donald_Trump-Mark_Fields-FordFord has announced that the next generation Focus sedan will be imported from China, now that other automakers have proven there’s little public backslash nor customer hesitation over quality from cars produced in China. Buick already imports the Enclave from China, Cadillac will follow with the CT6 PHEV and Volvo sells the Chinese made S60L in the US and S90 in Europe. So not a lot of breaking news there, except that the Focus will be the highest volume model so far that will be shipped from China to the US. The big story about this announcement is Ford’s decision to pick China instead of Mexico as the new production base for the Focus. Ford originally planned to move Focus production to a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Those plans were canceled in January, less than a year after announcing them, under public pressure from then-president-elect Donald Trump. Trump singled out Ford for its decision to move production from Michigan to Mexico, which he claimed would cost US jobs. Then-Ford-CEO Mark Fields called Bullshit on Trump as the Focus would make room for production of the Bronco SUV and Ranger midsize pickup at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in 2018, and no US jobs would be lost as a result of this move, but it was too little too late against the media-savvy populist who never let truth get in the way of headline-grabbing claims.

Eager not to let Trump take any credit for the decision not to invest in extra capacity in Mexico, Ford cited cost savings of $500 million as the reason to change its mind and build the next gen Focus at its existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico instead of investing in the new plant in San Luis Potosi. Now there’s a new CEO at the helm at Ford and plans have changed again: Mexican production is off the table altogether. Again, cost savings of another $500 million are quoted as the reason for the shift of production across the Pacific. These plans were already in the making under Mark Fields, but it was the new boss Jim Hackett who eventually pulled the trigger.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis April 2017

China-car-sales-graph-may-2017Car sales in China seem to have stalled after years of double digit growth. The main culprit for the slowdown has been mentioned on these pages before: the government has artificially boosted demand for cars with small engines since the 3rd quarter of 2015 when the market threatened to sink into the red due to a collapsing stock market and reduced customer confidence. That tax break has worked perfectly in pulling forward car purchases in Q4 of 2015 and in 2016 but it was cut in half by the beginning of 2017 and has since affected the Chinese car market in a negative way. Sales of vehicles with engines of 1,6 liters or less fell 9% to 1.15 million last month. In Q1, total market sales were still up by 5,7% but two months of declines have brought the year-to-date tally to 9,25 million, up just 2,7% on the first 5 months of 2016. A 2,2% loss in April was a first warning sign and now in May sales are down by another 2,1% to 1,71 million units. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate rebounded to 22,2 million, still the second lowest figure in the past 12 months. SUVs and crossovers continued to fuel the market with sales up 13% to 715.000 units in May, but this could not offset declines in deliveries of sedans (-9,3% to 839.000 sales) and MPVs (-17% to 150.000). The share of domestic automakers was the lowest since last August at 40,3% and it has fallen hard since its peak of 47,1% in February. However, compared to May 2016, the domestic brands have increased their sales 3% while the foreign brands saw their volume shrink by 5,5%.  Year-to-date, the domestic share is now 43,4%.

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European car sales analysis April 2017 – models

Volkswagen_Tiguan-European-sales-figuresAfter discussing the April 2017 European car brand sales ranking, let’s take a closer look at which individual models are helping their brand succeed or fail. After the freak event in March, when the Volkswagen Golf was not the best selling car in Europe, things have returned to normal in April, although the Golf is still the biggest loser by far in the top-25 wiht a loss of more than 28% on last year. The Golf lost more sales from April 2016 to April 2017 than its rival Renault Megane sold last month (Golf: -13.831 units). And while the Golf no longer sells double the volume of its nearest competitor, it still has a gap of almost 10.000 sales to the #2, as the entire top-3 is down. One culprit for the Golf’s demise is obvious in 4th place: the success of the Volkswagen Tiguan, up 70% to equal its highest ranking ever. Last month’s leader Ford Fiesta is down to 7th place as it’s payback time for its dependence on the UK market, which was exceptionally strong in March, but exceptionally weak in April. The same can be said of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, down 15% into 8th place. We welcome the Citroën C3 into the top-10 for the first time ever, as it even threatens to outsell its recently acquired stablemate Corsa. The Skoda Octavia is back into the top-10 which means there’s only one crossover in the top-10, as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Captur are both just outside. The Captur is down 14% but remains ahead of its rivals Peugeot 2008 (#14) and Opel/Vauxhall Mokka X (#25), which are both down by single digits as competition in the segment has intensified by the arrival of new players.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis April 2017 – brands

European-car-sales-graph-April_2017The European car market declined by 7% in April 2017 as a collapsing UK market exacerbated a general slowdown across the continent which was caused by having fewer selling days than in 2016 due to a late Easter. Still, the almost  1,22 million cars sold in April is still slightly better than the same month in 2015. As mentioned, the biggest culprit of the decline is the British market, which declined by almost 20% on last year as the result of an increase in the Vehicle Excise Duty tax which came in effect on April 1st in the UK. Another part of the explanation for the plummeting sales is that Easter fell in April this year instead of in March, which means dealers had fewer selling days in 2017. Combined sales of March and April are still up by 2,9% on 2016. The UK market is expected to stabilize as the year proceeds, as the effect of the tax raise will wither away. The Year-to-date figure now stands at 5,44 million units, an increase of 4% on the first four months of 2016.

Of the big markets, only the Spanish market grew in April (+1,1%), as the UK posted a double-digit drop (-19,8%) and Germany (-8%), France (-6%) and Italy (-4,6%) also lost volume. This was balanced by positive contributions from the so-called EU-12 countries (+8.2%), the member states that have joined the EU since 2004. The fastest growing market was Croatia (+29,6%), while Ireland was the biggest loser at -24,5%.… Continue Reading …

Global car sales analysis 2017-Q1

In the first quarter of 2017, worldwide sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles increased almost 5%, according to JATO Dynamics figures, based on their data of 52 markets. Almost a million additional vehicle sales (+962.000) compared to the first quarter of 2016 make for a new total of 21,24 million global sales. Disclaimer: this total excludes some major markets like Iran, the Middle East, Magreb, Pakistan, Philippines and a few South American countries. Still, this should give a reasonably accurate picture of the global car market this year.

Worldwide-car-sales-by-manufacturer-2017-Q1In terms of manufacturers, Renault-Nissan is the big winner at the top, entering the top-3 thanks to a 10,4% increase and reaching within a spitting distance (just 1.500 units) of Toyota (+7,8%). Keep in mind that Renault is relatively strong in Iran and the Magreb countries, while Toyota is dominant in the Middle East and Philippines, so even accounting for those markets the gap between the two companies will be small. Volkswagen still leads despite growing slower than the industry at just +1,7%. GM is down to fourth due to the sale of its European unit Opel/Vauxhall to PSA.… Continue Reading …

New model introductions in China, March & April 2017

The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with over 400 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the March 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 11 new models: 6 crossovers, a sedan, a hatchback and an EV version of an existing crossover. In the April 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 9 new models: 5 crossovers, 1 MPV and 3 sedans (of which 2 EVs).

Roewe i6

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Roewe_i6-sedanAfter a successful launch of its first crossover, the Roewe RX5, SAIC launches its first sedan with its new corporate design, and it immediately is one of the most mature looking Chinese sedans on the market. Gone are all the frivolous shapes and shiny chrome accents, well except for the grille, that is. You could almost call it boring. The i6 launches in one of the most difficult segments in China, that of affordable compact sedans, but still a segment with a lot of potential. Power comes from either a 1,0T three-cylinder with 125hp/170Nm mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox or a 1,5T with 170hp/250Nm also mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox. A PHEV version named i6e will follow soon, powered by a 1-liter three-cylinder withh 125hp and a 82hp electric motor. Dimensions are 4.671/1.835/4.460mm with a wheelbase of 2.715mm.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis April 2017

China-car-sales-graph-april-2017The Chinese car market is fluctuating in the first four months of 2017: After a stable January, a promising 20% gain in February 2017 and a modest growth of 2,9% in March, April sales are down 2,2% again, for a total of 1,68 million units. Of course, this is still the second-best ever April figure, and the YTD total now stands at 7,54 million, an increase of 3,8% on the first four months of 2016. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate stands at 21,4 million in April, the lowest figure in the past 12 months. Sales of vehicles with engines of 1,6 liters or less fell 10% to 1.14 million, after the central government phased out a tax break on these models at the beginning of this year. SUVs and crossovers are once again the main (and only) winners in April with sales up 10% to 674.000 units, while sedans sales decline for the second consecutive month at -7,3% to 840.000 sales and MPVs lose volume for the fourth month in a row at -15% to 153.000. New Engergy vehicle sales improved 7,9% to 34.300 units, as EV sales gained 19% to 28.500 units but PHEVs plunged 27% to 5.800 sales. The share of domestic automakers dipped below 42% for the first time since last August as they benefitted the most from the tax cut on small vehicles.

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European sales 2017-Q1 Exotic and Sports Car segments

Exotic_car-segment-European-sales-2017_Q1-Aston_Martin_DB11-Ferrari_488-Bentley_Continental_GTSales of exotic cars in Europe have exploded in the first quarter of 2017, with a growth of 45% to over 2.100 units. And after years of domination by the Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari 458 Italia, we have a new segment leader, straight out of the box. With almost a quarter of total segment sales, the all-new Aston Martin DB11 has stormed to the top of the ranking, ahead of the Ferrari 488 which maintains its second place thanks to a sales growth of 35%, while the former segment leader Continental GT is kicked down to third place with stable sales. Never before has an Aston Martin topped the exotic car segment in Europe, but the DB11 is an obvious hit with affluent buyers. It has turned the two-horse race at the top of the ranking into a three-way, as the top-3 dominates the segment with 68,3% of total sales as the #3 sells more than triple the volume of its closest rival.

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European sales 2017-Q1 Passenger Van segment

Passenger-van-segment-European-sales-2017_Q1-Volkswagen_T6-Mercedes_Benz_V_Class-Fiat_DucatoSales of large passenger vans in Europe continue their double digit growth thanks to ongoing success of existing models and a rejuvenation of a number of players. The three top sellers all grow slower than the segment and lose share but remain dominant with a combined 54,6% share (down from 68,6%). The Volkswagen Transporter T6 and its luxury derivative Multivan add just 3% to their sales of last year but still sell more than twice the volume of their closest rival. Even when combining the Mercedes-Benz Vito Tourer with its luxury derivative V-Class, Volkswagen maintains a comfortable lead. The Fiat Ducato in third place still depends on campervan conversions for most of its sales. However, the Ducato would be off the podium if we combined sales of the Renault quadruplets Trafic, Vivaro, Talento and all-new NV300.

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European sales 2017-Q1 Premium Large SUV segment

Large_Premium_SUV-segment-European-sales-2017_Q1-BMW_X5-Volvo_XC90-Range_Rover_SportSales growth of premium large SUVs in Europe continues to outpace the overall market, although at a lower rate than in the previous years. In the first quarter of 2017, the segment grew 9% to almost 80.000 sales in a total market up 7,8%. Only one model managed to op 10.000 sales this quarter, the BMW X5 thanks to sales up 10%. That means the X5 consolidates its leadership as the #2 Volvo XC90 sees stable sales compared to last year. Unlike its smaller sibling XC60, the XC90 is unable to grab the top spot in its segment, although Volvo points out to supply issues as a result of high global demand for the model. Range Rover is one of the big winners of the segment this year, with its models the two fastest growing nameplates in the segment, and the Range Rover Sport jumps up to third place at the expense of the much fresher Audi Q7 and the regular Range Rover climbs to 6th place.

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