Comparison: car sales in Germany 1985 vs. 2014

A few months ago, I posted an article comparing French car sales in 1985 and 2014. I noticed it was a very popular article, so I’ll try to find some more countries to find the data from about 30 years back. The first one on the list, and again thanks to Daniel Carrer, is Germany.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Volkswagen_Golf_2-Opel_Kadett_E

Photo credit: AutoBild

While the overall market in France hasn’t grown much in those 29 years, car sales in Germany have increased by more than a quarter, from less than 2,4 million in 1985 to more than 3 million in 2014. Much of that growth can be attributed to import brands, as sales of German brands have increased by only 145.000 units in that period. That means their market share has shrunk from a whopping 72,7% to an only slightly more modest 62%. This excludes brands that now belong to a German group, but which aren’t officially German. If we include Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Mini and Smart, the Germans still control almost 72% of their home turf.

But with Skoda adding over 170.000 annual sales and 5,6 points of share and Seat another 90.000 sales and 2,9 points of share, there are bound to be losers among the local brands, and the biggest loser of the bunch is without a doubt GM’s German unit Opel. While Volkswagen has held on to the #1 spot thanks to 100.000 additional sales, Opel has plunged from its second place in 1985 to fifth place last year, losing almost 150.000 sales and no less than half of its market share in the process. Another German branch from an American company which has lost a lot of sales since the mid-80s is Ford: market share has dropped from 10,7% in 1985 to 6.9% in 2014 as sales have declined by 46.000 units and the brand has been bounced from 4th to 6th place and last mainstream local brand.

Rank Brand 1985 Market share Rank Brand 2014 Market Share
1 Volkswagen 549.736 23,08% 1 Volkswagen 656.494 21,67%
2 Opel 367.740 15,44% 2 Mercedes-Benz 272.566 9,00%
3 Mercedes-Benz 273.528 11,49% 3 Audi 259.459 8,56%
4 Ford 255.035 10,71% 4 BMW 237.748 7,85%
5 BMW 144.262 6,06% 5 Opel 219.084 7,23%
6 Audi 130.242 5,47% 6 Ford 209.131 6,90%
7 Fiat 102.558 4,31% 7 Skoda 173.583 5,73%
8 Renault 74.099 3,11% 8 Renault 105.322 3,48%
9 Mazda 66.863 2,81% 9 Hyundai 99.820 3,30%
10 Nissan 63.253 2,66% 10 Seat 93.129 3,07%
11 Toyota 61.182 2,57% 11 Toyota 70.267 2,32%
12 Peugeot 57.922 2,43% 12 Fiat 68.103 2,25%
13 Mitsubishi 45.185 1,90% 13 Nissan 62.536 2,06%
14 Honda 37.332 1,57% 14 Peugeot 54.096 1,79%
15 Citroën 37.038 1,56% 15 Kia 53.546 1,77%
16 Suzuki 18.429 0,77% 16 Mazda 52.491 1,73%
17 Volvo 14.226 0,60% 17 Citroën 52.003 1,72%
18 Porsche 11.394 0,48% 18 Dacia 48.907 1,61%
19 Subaru 11.278 0,47% 19 Mini 33.183 1,10%
20 Daihatsu 8.639 0,36% 20 Volvo 31.919 1,05%
21 Lada 8.306 0,35% 21 Suzuki 27.835 0,92%
22 Austin 6.239 0,26% 22 Porsche 24.365 0,80%
23 Alfa Romeo 5.813 0,24% 23 Mitsubishi 24.131 0,80%
24 Seat 4.362 0,18% 24 Honda 22.498 0,74%
25 Isuzu 4.219 0,18% 25 Smart 22.408 0,74%
26 Lancia 3.753 0,16% 26 Land Rover 14.679 0,48%
27 Saab 3.240 0,14% 27 Jeep 10.268 0,34%
28 Talbot 2.989 0,13% 28 Subaru 6.218 0,21%
29 Matra 2.638 0,11% 29 Chevrolet 5.516 0,18%
30 Skoda 2.484 0,10% 30 Jaguar 4.229 0,14%
31 Jaguar 2.350 0,10% 31 Alfa Romeo 3.391 0,11%
32 Pininfarina 935 0,04% 32 Lexus 1.328 0,04%
33 Land Rover 847 0,04% 33 Lancia 1.262 0,04%
34 Bertone 390 0,02% 34 Lada 1.180 0,04%
35 Ferrari 300 0,01% 35 Maserati 1.103 0,04%
36 Jeep 238 0,01% 36 SsangYong 1.082 0,04%
37 Alpine 225 0,01% 37 Infiniti 1.015 0,03%
38 Alpina 173 0,01% 38 Tesla 817 0,03%
39 Cadillac 96 0,00% 39 Ferrari 652 0,02%
40 Innocenti 54 0,00% 40 Alpina 569 0,02%
41 Chrysler 13 0,00% 41 Bentley 413 0,01%
42 FSO 5 0,00% 42 Aston Martin 279 0,01%
43 Vauxhall 2 0,00% 43 Chrysler 238 0,01%
44 Autobianchi 1 0,00% 44 Lamborghini 162 0,01%
Total market 2.381.598 45 Lotus 115 0,00%
46 Cadillac 97 0,00%
47 Rolls-Royce 91 0,00%
48 Morgan 88 0,00%
49 Dodge 13 0,00%
50 Wiesmann 4 0,00%
51 Maybach 3 0,00%
Total market 3.029.436
German brands 1.732.110 72,73% German brands 1.877.466 61,97%
Geman brands (incl. Group brands) 2.178.027 71,90%

 

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Mercedes_Benz_190-Audi_80

Mercedes-Benz 190 and Audi 80 (B3 1986-1992). Photo credit: AutoWeek

These misfortunes have helped the German premium automakers: Mercedes-Benz has passed Opel to take the #2 spot despite virtually flat sales of just over 270.000 annual units. BMW has added 1,8 percentage points of market share and 93.000 annual sales to move from 5th to 4th, but Audi has done even better: it has doubled in volume and has added 3 points of market share, passing BMW, Ford and Opel to go from #6 onto the German podium. Audi also greatly contributes to VW Group’s 1,2 million annual sales in its home market, which gives it a market share of close to 40%. Audi sales would start their steady rise in 1986, when the new generation Audi 80 was introduced, no longer based on a VW Passat platform

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Fiat_UnoWith the top-6 entirely German both years, we find Fiat as the biggest importer in 1985 with over 100.000 sales. 29 years later, Fiat has lost a third of its volume and 2 points of its market share, and is now the #4 importer behind Renault, Hyundai and Toyota. Renault sales in Germany have increased by 42% to (like Fiat in 1985) over 100.000 sales.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Mazda_626The best selling Asian manufacturer in 1985 was Mazda in 9th place. Fast forward 29 years and the best selling Asian brand is still in 9th place, but this time it’s Hyundai, a brand that hadn’t even started exporting cars to Germany in 1985, but has built up a volume of almost 100.000 annual sales in less than 30 years! Kia (#15) adds another 53.500 sales to that volume and has become the #4 Asian brand, ahead of the former Asia-leader Mazda.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Mitsubishi_ColtOther Asian manufacturers have been less fortunate, as Mitsubishi (#13 to #23), Honda (#14 to #24) and Subaru (#19 to #28) have lost almost half of their volume in Germany in 29 years, while Daihatsu (#20 in 1985) and Isuzu (#25 in 1985) have completely stopped exports to Europe, leaving Suzuki (#16 down to #21) as the only Japanese brand that has increased its market share in the period. If we look at market shares by country of origin, we see that most of the gain from South-Korean manufacturers has come from Japanese brands, indicating that there’s a ceiling to the demand for Asian cars at about 14% market share. So if the Koreans want to continue making inroads in Germany, this will likely happen at the cost of their Japanese rivals.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-market_shares-by-country-of-origin

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Austin_MontegoSimilar to France, a total of 13 brands have disappeared from the ranking, either because they stopped exports to Germany or because they’ve stopped existing altogether. Besides the already mentioned Daihatsu and Isuzu, we say a last goodbye to Austin from England; Saab of Sweden; Talbot, Matra and Alpine from France; Pininfarina, Bertone, Innocenti and Autobianchi of Italy, Chrysler from the USA and FSO from Poland, although Alpine is expected to rise from the ashes in a few years time.

On the other hand, besides Hyundai and Kia, a few other brands have appeared and stormed the ranking: most notably Dacia, going from nonexistent to almost 50.000 sales and 1,6% market share. Mini has come from 0 to 33.000 sales and 1,1% share, and Smart scoring over 22.000 sales and 0,74% of share.

Rank Model 1985 sales Market share Rank Model 2014 sales Market share
1 Volkswagen Golf 298.175 12,52% 1 Volkswagen Golf 255.044 8,42%
2 Opel Kadett 190.124 7,98% 2 Volkswagen Passat 72.153 2,38%
3 Mercedes-Benz 190 122.751 5,15% 3 Volkswagen Polo 68.103 2,25%
4 Volkswagen Passat 105.622 4,43% 4 Audi A3 65.199 2,15%
5 Mercedes-Benz W124 98.462 4,13% 5 Volkswagen Tiguan 61.947 2,04%
6 BMW 3-series 96.929 4,07% 6 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 60.350 1,99%
7 Ford Sierra 76.441 3,21% 7 BMW 3-series 55.681 1,84%
8 Opel Ascona 73.103 3,07% 8 Opel Corsa 55.151 1,82%
9 Ford Escort 67.891 2,85% 9 Skoda Octavia 52.620 1,74%
10 Ford Fiesta 64.775 2,72% 10 BMW 1-series 50.250 1,66%
11 Volkswagen Polo 63.515 2,67% 11 Ford Focus 49.494 1,63%
12 Audi 80 59.301 2,49% 12 Audi A4 48.278 1,59%
13 Opel Corsa 45.299 1,90% 13 Volkswagen Touran 47.801 1,58%
14 Audi 100 44.959 1,89% 14 Opel Astra 46.193 1,52%
15 Opel Rekord 44.693 1,88% 15 Ford Fiesta 45.228 1,49%
16 Volkswagen Jetta 42.695 1,79% 16 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 44.351 1,46%
17 Peugeot 205 41.983 1,76% 17 Volkswagen Up! 40.902 1,35%
18 Fiat Uno 37.076 1,56% 18 Seat Leon 40.251 1,33%
19 BMW 5-series 36.612 1,54% 19 Audi A6 39.596 1,31%
20 Mazda 626 32.993 1,39% 20 BMW 5-series 38.733 1,28%
Top 10 50,15% Top 10 26,29%
Top 20 69,00% Top 20 40,84%

 

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Mercedes_Benz_190-BMW_3_series-Ford_SierraJust to paint a picture of the time period we’re talking about here: the Opel Kadett had just changed from the square D-generation to the round E-generation, the last one before the brand switched to the Astra name, while Volkswagen had introduced its second generation Golf a year earlier, in 1983. And one year before that, Mercedes-Benz had launched its smallest car ever, the 190. This Bruno Sacco design was an instant hit, as it made the German top-3 in 1985 with more than double the figure of its rival BMW 3-series E30, which was introduced in the same year as the Baby-Benz. Download the 1986 comparison test (in German) between the Golf and the Kadett by AutoBild here or buy the 2011 comparison test (also in German) between the BMW E30 M3, the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II and the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth for just € 1,- here.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Volkswagen_Golf_2-Golf_7Similar to France, the model ranking has fragmented, with the leader Volkswagen Golf II down from 12,5% market share to 8,4% share for the Golf VII, which is contrary to what most people (including me) would expect, when they claim the Golf is ultra-dominant in Germany. The share of the top-10 has shrunk from over 50% to just over 26% and the share of the top-20 is down from 69% to less than 41% of the market.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Peugeot_205The models ranking shows more chauvinism in Germany than it does in France, especially in 2014. In 1985 the best selling import model was the Peugeot 205 in 17th place, while 29 years later there are no import models in the top-20. The first import model last year was the Fiat 500 in 27th place (source: BSCB). With the top-3 all VW models and the top-5 all VW Group models, that 40% market share as mentioned above becomes very visible in the models ranking.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Volkswagen_PassatAnother trend we can see both in France and in Germany is the slowing interest in midsized and large sedans, although it’s not as visible in the top-20 rankings as it is in France. In the mid-eighties, the best selling midsized car was the Mercedes-Benz 190 in #2. Its successor the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is down to #6 overall in 2014 with half of its volume, while the Volkswagen Passat makes sure there’s still a midsized car occupying that second place. With cars like the Ford Sierra, Opel Ascona, Audi 80 and even the Mazda 626, there were 7 midsized models in the 1985 top-20, versus just 4 in 2014.

German-car-sales-1985-2014-Mercedes_Benz_W124The most popular large car in 1985 was the Mercedes-Benz W124 (then known as the 200/300 series) in an amazing 5th place with almost 100.000 sales. Its successor the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is down to 16th place, also with less than half of the volume of its great-grandfather). It’s still the best selling large car in Germany, ahead of the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series. 29 years earlier, the Audi 100 was also ahead of the 5-series, but the Opel Rekord made it 4 large sedans in the top-20. Opel stopped making large sedans in 2003 when it discontinued the Omega.

Finally, which models have held on to their top-20 positions and have still kept the same name after almost 30 years? Besides the obvious leader of the pack Volkswagen Golf, we find that the VW brand is as conservative with its names as it has become with its design. The Polo and Passat are still among Germany’s best seller, as are the BMW 3-series and 5-series and the subcompacts Ford Fiesta and Opel Corsa.

 

About Bart Demandt

Bart is a 36-year old Dutchman who's always had a thing for cars, the automotive industry and statistics. He’s combined these passions by writing about them on CarSalesBase.com. His daily driver is an Alfa Romeo GT 3.2 V6 which he just can't seem to say goodbye to thanks to the mesmerizing exhaust note.
You can find all his articles Here.

Comments

  1. Awesome analysis as always, and a pleasure to read!

  2. Perfect article very interesting as always Bart !

    Do you really agree on the fact of Ford being considered “German” ?
    I mean why do we especially consider this subsidiary German to the contrary of other importers ? I know they have offices and their Europe headquarters there but as far as I know, Hyundai and Kia conceive more their cars in Germany (design, engineering) than Ford now.
    Especially with their new strategy “One Ford” which tries to bring “World cars” everywhere, and that comes mainly from the USA now (e.g. the new Mondeo)
    Your insights on this would be appreciated ! 😉

    (Maybe your % share by country graph could be updated with “American-German” for Ford ?)
    Have a good day !

    Dens

    • Bart Demandt says:

      Hi Dens,
      good point! Until a few years back (before the One Ford Strategy), my answer would simply have been that Ford is considered as a local brand by the Germans because of their heritage with the country. However, this has somewhat eroded when Ford started to launch their “world cars”, with the Focus no longer being a German-designed and -built car to compete with the Golf and Astra in Europe, but now also made in the US, China, Russia and a few other countries, for worldwide sales. And as you point out: the Mondeo has arrived in Europe two-and-a-half years after its introduction in the US and one year after its introduction in China.
      One could claim that Opel is also considered German, being 100% owned by an American company as well. But Opel was founded by a German and later bought by the Americans. And it still uses its German brand name and produces models that are mostly developed for the local European market, so I’d consider it less American than Ford.
      So while the Ford of Europe headquarters are still in Cologne and there are still two factories in Germany, making the Fiesta, Focus and Kuga for the local market, is that enough to keep counting the brand as “German”? The Americans won’t agree anyways. So I’d say we should let the Germans decide for themselves. And then considering Ford is the least popular of the local brands and considering the Germans are very chauvinistic in their car purchases, you could conclude that the Germans consider Ford to be the least German of the top-6 brands.
      So perhaps you’re right, and should we call it a German-American brand.
      In their advertising they’ll naturally keep pretending to be German instead of American, because of the image of German engineering, but at least they’re not trying too hard in the way Opel does with its “Das Auto” tagline. That’s just so overdone that it becomes ridiculous.

  3. Hey Bart!
    Great Article, as it has been the previous one regarding the french market.
    Please have a look to what has happened – in Italy – in the meanwhile: http://www.automotivespace.it/eng/alfa-romeo-vs-bmw/
    Ciao!

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