European car sales continue to slowly climb out of the recession, with sales up a timid 2% in October 2015 at 1.134.167, the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. Year-to-date, the figure stands at 11.850.632, up 8% on 2014, so we may top 14 million European car sales in 2015, the first time to do so since 2011. That may still be a long way from the 16 million-plus sales a decade ago, but at least it’s a volume at which most European automakers have a sustainable business case.
October has marked a significant and sudden change of fortune for some manufacturers, as the big winners of the first three quarters, Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan have suddenly moved to the “biggest losers” side of the table. Volkswagen and Seat, and Nissan and Dacia have lost volume on last year, after having enjoyed great improvements earlier in the year. Is this a temporary glitch or a sign of upcoming bad times? Well, Volkswagen is starting to feel the impact of the diesel scandal, which started early September. Considering most European car buyers configure their car to their liking and then wait a few weeks for it to be manufactured, it makes sense that it would take about a month before the brand would start to feel the impact of reduced customer interest. We’ll keep a close eye on the progression of Volkswagen sales in the upcoming months. Of course, a stop-sale order on certain diesel models doesn’t help either, and this also affects other brands of the Volkswagen Group.
Seat is currently in a fresh-product lull, as the Leon is feeling the heat of the fresher Peugeot 308, while Renault and Opel/Vauxhall are preparing to replace their newest compact hatchbacks Megane and Astra. And a minor facelift can’t hide the fact that the Ibiza is already almost 7 years old. For Dacia the current slowdown seems like a natural development as its updated models (new generations of the Sandero and Logan, facelifted Duster) are now more than a year on the market. A similar development is visible at Nissan, where Qashqai sales are now no longer compared to the outgoing model, but to the first months of sales of the current one, while the Note has suddenly lost steam and the Juke is feeling the heat of new competition.
This has helped Daimler and BMW Group to become the biggest growth engines of the market in October, followed by FCA Fiat-Chrysler. The premium brands have been strong all year, and have scored a few third places among them, but now that VW and the French-Japanese alliance are vulnerable, they’ve moved in swiftly.
Looking at relative growth, Tesla keeps impressing at their current sales pace, which is surprisingly stable compared to last year’s on-again-off-again cadence, which appears to have been taken over by Lotus and SAIC MG. These two brands keep going from fastest growing to fastest declining from one month to the other. In October, Lotus (owned by Malaysia’s DRB-Hicom) grows by 167,5% after being the industry’s biggest loser the month before. SAIC MG was the #3 fastest growing manufacturer in September, but in October, it loses 15,4% of its volume, more than any other manufacturer. Surprisingly, Toyota Motor Corp. is in that negative top-3 as well, albeit with a modest -3,2%.
Brands-wise, BMW is the big winner of the month, adding more than 7.300 units to its October volume, followed by both Daimler brands Smart and Mercedes-Benz, while Citroën joins Volkswagen and Seat among the biggest losers. Behind Tesla, India’s Tata is the #2 fastest growing brand, albeit from a very low base. The growth comes from an unidentified new model, possibly the Zest sedan or Bolt hatchback, which were shown at the Geneva Auto Show last March, although the company then denied having plans of exports to Europe for these models. Cadillac also gets a nice boost, but I doubt 64 monthly units will get the champagne popping in Detroit. No wait, they’ve moved their headquarters to New York to separate themselves from the rest of GM.
The October brand ranking gets a shake-up as well, as Renault moves back into third place after being outsold by Opel/Vauxhall for three consecutive months. In fact, Renault is only 1.500 units behind Ford, which suffers from a slowdown after the huge September volume boost in the UK. A similar phenomenon plagues Vauxhall, as the combined GM units even fall down to fifth place behind Peugeot, and also UK-dependent Nissan, which falls from #9 in September to #13 and behind rival Toyota in October.
Audi is back ahead of BMW and Mercedes-Benz for the first time since July, despite the latter two showing great year-on-year improvements. Honda celebrates two consecutive months of growth for the first time since early 2013, while Chevrolet starts off its final quarter of official sales in Europe between Russia’s Lada brand and Tata of India.
October winners and losers
|Manufacturer biggest volume increase||Daimler AG||11.703||Manufacturer biggest volume lost||Volkswagen Group||-6.607|
|Manufacturer biggest % increase||Tesla Motors||541,1%||Manufacturer biggest % lost||SAIC MG||-15,4%|
|DRB-Hicom (Proton / Lotus)||167,6%||AvtoVAZ (Lada)||-14,0%|
|Mahindra & Mahindra||75,9%||Toyota Motor||-3,2%|
|Brand biggest volume increase||BMW||7.353||Brand biggest volume lost||Volkswagen||-5.315|
|Brand biggest % increase||Tesla||541,1%||Brand biggest % lost||Great Wall||-78,0%|
January – October 2015 sales
Despite their October struggles, Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan are still the two manufacturers that add the most volume so far this year, with Daimler consolidating in third place, while the two positive months are not enough for Honda to move away from its position as the only manufacturer to lose sales in 2015.
Renault has moved ahead of Opel/Vauxhall in the YTD brand ranking to take third place behind Volkswagen and Ford. With the new Kadjar and continued success of the Captur, the French are unlikely to give away the lead by the end of the year, but it will be an interesting battle in 2016, when the new Astra and Megane will fight it out in the compact segment. Analysts predict the Astra to take the advantage over the Megane, which will face cannibalization from the Kadjar, so the race for third place will be tight next year.
Any interesting battles to watch for the final two months of the year? In October, BMW narrowed the gap to its rival Mercedes-Benz by more than 1.100 units to just over 2.700 units. With the all-new GLC and facelifted and renamed M-Class/GLE Mercedes still has the momentum to stay ahead for the rest of the year, but BMW is always a force to be reckoned with.
Nissan, Toyota and Citroën are within 10.000 units of each other and in the exact opposite order in October, but the gaps seem too large to close in those final two months, giving Nissan the coveted title of best selling Asian brand in Europe. Then there’s Jaguar and Lexus, which have been swapping places for the past couple of years. Both have introduced an important all-new model this year with the XE and the NX, and so far Jaguar is ahead by a mere 21 units. My prediction for the end of the year? Jaguar will stay ahead.
January – October 2015 winners and losers
|Manufacturer biggest volume increase||Volkswagen Group||175.741||Manufacturer biggest volume lost||Honda||-5.194|
|Manufacturer biggest % increase||Mahindra & Mahindra||68,4%||Manufacturer biggest % lost||Honda||-4,5%|
|DRB-Hicom (Proton / Lotus)||35,3%|
|Brand biggest volume increase||Volkswagen||85.915||Brand biggest volume lost||Chevrolet||-35.005|
|Brand biggest % increase||Jeep||149,0%||Brand biggest % lost||Chevrolet||-94,9%|
October 2015 brand ranking
|Brand||October 2015||October 2014||change|
January – October 2015 brand ranking
|Brand||Jan-Oct 2015||Market share||Jan-Oct 2014||Market share||change YoY|