European car sales analysis March and Q1 2017 – models

Shock and horror at the top of the European car sales ranking: in March 2017 the Volkswagen Golf is not the best selling car in Europe, for the first time since at least 2011 (our monthly data only goes back to 2012) but likely since March 2010. The Ford Fiesta leads the ranking despite being due for replacement by the next generation, which has already been revealed. This is the result of two factors: firstly the Fiesta is boosted by its strength in the UK market, where it’s traditionally been the best seller, and which is traditionally the largest market in Europe in March, and secondly, the Golf is struggling after its recent facelift with sales down 18%, due to increased choice of in-house crossover alternatives with the new generation Tiguan and Seat Ateca. Still, this won’t be the beginning of the end of Golf domination, expect the model to continue to lead the charts for the rest of the year as it usually does. The Volkswagen Polo is third again, which means it outsells the Renault Clio for the first time since last October. For the second month in a row the Nissan Qashqai is the best selling crossover in Europe, also helped by its popularity in the UK where it’s produced.… Continue Reading …

March 2017 was a record month for 26 brands in Europe

March 2017 was a record month for European car sales, with 1,92 million units it was only 100.000 sales behind China, the world’s largest single car market. Helped by strong UK volume, March is traditionally the biggest selling month of the year, with about 11,5% of full year sales, so records are usually set this month. If the market as a whole sets a new volume record, a number of individual brands are naturally bound to do the same. And indeed, no less than 26 brands break their monthly volume record, which is half of all the brands currently on sale. I guess that may be a record by itself, although I didn’t check it. Especially luxury and exotic brands had a blockbuster month, with 17 record breakers out of 24 brands, compared to 9 new sales records out of 28 mainstream brands.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis March and Q1 2017 – brands

A record 1,92European-car-sales-graph-March_2017 million new cars were sold in Europe in March 2017. This is an increase of 10,5% over March last year and the highest monthly volume ever recorded. Part of the explanation for the surge in sales is that Easter fell in April this year instead of in March, like last year, which means dealers had extra selling days in 2017. Still, almost 2 million sales in a single month is an impressive figure and it even comes close to the 2,02 million sales in China this same month. March sales are usually around 11,5% of total annual volume, which extrapolates to an expected record 16,7 million sales in 2017. That would be an increase of 10,3% on 2015 and significantly higher than the previous record of 16,1 million sales in 2004.

All five of the big markets showed strong growth in March, with Italy (+18,2%), Spain (+12,6%) and Germany (+11,4%) leading the way with double digit gains, while the UK (+8,4%) and France (+7%) grow slightly slower than te rest of the market. 16 out of the 30 markets showed double digit gains and only 5 lost volume, all in single digits. The fastest growing market was Greece (+49,5%), recovering from its deep recession. In the first quarter, European car sales increased 7,8% to 4,22 million units. Italy was the fastest growing of the big markets at +11,9%.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis March 2017

China-car-sales-graph-march-2017After a stable January, and a promising 20,2% gain in February 2017, March car sales in China are back to modest growth with a 2,9% increase to just over 2 million units. To put that small year-on-year growth into perspective: March 2012 sales just topped the 1 million units, so the market has doubled in 5 years time. In that light, a 3% improvement is quite a slowdown. Then again, first quarter sales are up 6% to 5,78 million and that’s on par with expectations, as sales growth was expected to slow down into the single digits after the tax increase on cars with engines of 1,6 liters or smaller, which made up over 70% of total sales last year. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate stands at 23,5 million in March. SUVs and crossovers are the main (and only) winners in March with sales up 20% to 832.300 units, while sedans surprisingly show a loss of 4,9% to 990.200 sales (first quarter sales are up just 0,8%), and MPVs lose volume for the third month in a row at -15% to 199.300. The central government cut EV subsidies last January but when sales plummeted to almost a halt that month, the subsidies were quickly reinstated, and as a result Sales of New Energy vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) jumped 36% in March to 25.342 EVs and 5.778 PHEVs, but the Q1 figure is still down 4,7% to 44.333 EVs and 11.596 PHEVs. After domestic brands broke a new record share of 46,5% in February, foreign automakers struck back in March with their locally produced models as the share of the domestics dropped to 43,6%.… Continue Reading …

Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Domestic Cars

The Shanghai Auto Show is the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. And while you may think the cars from international brands are the most relevant for the worldwide automotive industry, the domestic Chinese automakers are eager to show off the impressive progress they’re making in terms of quality and design. Some of their launches and concept cars are destined to be exported to the European and US markets as well.

There’s simply too much news in Shanghai to discuss all the news, but we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant, most notworthy and most impressive production cars and concept cars.

Production cars:

Baojun 310 Wagon

2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-Baojun_310_WagonWagons are not a popular bodystyle in China, where sedans have traditionally ruled, MPVs were the alternative if more seats were required and SUVs are now the hottest thing around. Hatchbacks never really caught on in the People’s Republic either, which makes it that much more surprising that Baojun has a sudden hit this year with its ultra-cheap 310 hatchback, selling over 50.000 units in the first three months of 2017. Will the 310 Wagon be able to crack the cheap station wagon market in China too?… Continue Reading …

US sales 2017-Q1 Sports Large and Exotics segment

US large sportsSales of Large Sports Cars and Exotics fell by 5.5% in the first quarter of 2017, following a 10.4% decline in 2016. Total volume in this segment stood at 11,370 in Q1. And there’s not a lot of product news expected this year, so the decline is expected to last throughout the year. Then again, keep in mind the segment peaked at over 60,000 sales in 2015, when it almost doubled up in just 3 years time, so small declines after such an impressive growth curve are nothing to be ashamed of, especially on the lack of product news, as mentioned. We do welcome two newcomers to the segment compared to Q1 of last year, but both are still at the bottom of the ranking: the second generation Acura NSX and the all-new Ford GT.

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Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Foreign Cars

Just when the New York Auto Show in the US is in its final weekend, the Chinese equivalent is starting up in Shanghai. And while the former is an important event for the US market and no small show by any means, the latter is by far the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. Besides being one of the major shows for the domestic auto industry (together with Beijing), Shanghai is also important to foreign automakers for some of whom the Chinese market is their largest single market, especially for luxury brands. This means they’re showing off some important products in China first, before bringing them to the European or US markets. We’ll take a quick look at a selection of those launches here.

Production cars:


2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-BMW_M4CSKriss: hot

What is there to say: the M4 CS is the halfway point between the standard M4 and the hardcore M4 GTS, and as such promises to strike the perfect balance between the two. That it still looks more attractive than the younger Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and the new Audi RS5 is just the icing on top of the cake!

Bart: hotContinue Reading …

New York Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The annual New York Auto Show is one of the most popular auto shows in the world, it’s traditionally held at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and this year it runs  from Friday April 14 through Sunday April 23. That means it’s the last of the major auto shows in North America, after LA in November, Detroit in January and Chicago in February. As a result, the number of real new product launches and concept cars is relatively limited, especially compared to the most important of them all: Geneva. Still, we’ve had our pick of winners and losers of the show, and as usual we just can’t seem to agree on most of them. Let us know your view in the poll or in the comments below.

Production cars:

Acura TLX (facelift)

2017-New_York-Auto_Show-Acura_TLXKriss: Not

See the new TLX in isolation and you may think to yourself “wow, this is a pretty good-looking car”, but wish the grille wasn’t quite as big and brash as it is. Well, then, you’re in luck – there is a version of this car without this ugly new grille, and it’s called the pre-facelift TLX. Now, don’t get me wrong, the TLX is still pretty good looking, it’s just that with this facelift Acura managed to either botch the changes the TLX needed (the new grille is not an improvement, and does not go far enough to give this car “personality”) and not change things at all (the interior still looks no better than on the mass-market Accord). Acura is desperately looking for a car that will change the fortunes of its mainstream offerings, and this is not it, sadly.

Bart: Hot

What a difference a grille makes! Acura pulls trick from the Lexus playbook, using the motto: it doesn’t have to be stylish, as long as it’s brash. As opposed to Kriss, I think it’s an improvement compared to the pre-facelift version. The TLX goes from utter wallflower with its beak-nose to one of the most aggressive designs in the segment with its enormously wide grille. I don’t find it particularly sophisticated, or even attractive for that matter (I’d still prefer a C-Class, Q50 or even the aging 3-Series over it), but I just have to admire Acura for finally getting the point that just another vanilla sedan just isn’t going to cut it in this competitive segment anymore. Besides the sheer size of the grille, and the graphics inside it, there’s one more issue I have with the front end of the updated TLX: the lower part seems visually wider than the rest, which gives it a bit of a “heavy” presence, as if it has a double chin. The rear end has been cleaned up nicely, though.

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If the Americans shun Mexico, the Chinese will gladly step in

Mexican-car-marketPresident Donald Trump has offended the Mexicans in more than one way, and building even a virtual wall between the US and Mexico will affect trade between the two powers in a negative way, which would greatly affect the automotive industry, perhaps more than any other. Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a great number of carmakers have set up manufacturing facilities south of the Rio Grande to benefit from more than just lower wages to produce their lowest-margin vehicles. Any disturbance in the free trade agreement, most likely import duties, would increase costs for these manufacturers and have a negative impact on consumer prices in the US. Ford has already withdrawn plans to build a new US$1.6 billion plant in central Mexico’s San Luis Potosi in January in favor of a US$700 million upgrade to its Flat Rock, Michigan plant and others may think twice before becoming the target of one of Trump’s Twitter rages. However, as the US is shunning Mexico, the Chinese are more than happy to step in and invest in the growing market.

The success of Mexico

But first we need to look at what made Mexico such a phenomenal automotive production hub, and why automakers from outside North America have invested more than US$13.3 billion in Mexico since 2010, which is more than half of the US$24 billion invested in total. Ironically, Mexico’s low wages make up only a small portion of the explanation, as the biggest reason to build in Mexico is that the country has freer trade with the rest of the world than the US does: Mexican-made cars can be exported duty-free to 44 countries compared to just 20 for US-made cars, which make up only 9% of global car sales.… Continue Reading …

How has the European car market evolved in the last 15 years?

European-segment-development-2001-2016-small-crossoversA few weeks ago, when we were looking at which cars were leading their segments in Europe in 2016, one of our readers wondered how the market as a whole has evolved over the past decades: which segments have grown and which have decreased and what trends are visible in the market? As it turns out, the total market volume in 2016 is actually very comparable to that of 2001, as the European car market had a size of just over 15 million sales both last year and 15 years ago. Of course, in the meantime there have been great fluctuations, as the market peaked at over 16 million in 2004 and then crashed to just 12,3 million in 2013, and also between the segments there have been shifts in the period between then and now. But overall there’s a clear trend visible: mainstream brands have stagnated while luxury brands have floundered, MPVs made a brief successful run in the first half of the 2000’s, but since then it’s been all about crossovers and SUVs, while regular cars have been down across the board. So let’s take a more in-depth look at the trends we can see happening for the past 15 years.

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