After four months of growth, new car sales in Europe are down again, by 2,1% to 1,46 million sales in September 2017. This is only the second time this year that the European car market is in negative territory, and the year-to-date figure is now down to +3,3%, the lowest it has been so far this year. September is still the second best month so far this year, after March and just ahead of May. A total of 11,9 million cars have been sold in the first nine months of 2017, which is close to the 2013 full year figure of 12,3 million sales. Among the five biggest markets, Italy (+8,1%) and Spain (+4,6%) once again showed the strongest improvements, while France was stable at +1,1%, but Germany (-3,3%) and the United Kingdom (-9,3%) are pulling the market down. They are not the only one, as 11 out of the 30 countries of the EU and EFTA saw their sales decline, of which Denmark (-22,2%), Latvia (-20,8%) and Ireland (-17%) by double digits. Year-to-date, Italy (+9%), Spain (+6,7%), France (+3,9%) and Germany (+2,2%) continue to grow so far in 2017, but UK car demand fell by 3,9%
Surprisingly, tiny Suzuki Motors is the manufacturer that adds the most volume in September, ahead of juggernauts Renault-Nissan and Toyota Motor. All add between 2.500 and 4.000 sales, so small gains this month. On the other end of the spectrum we do see a few large declines, most notably those of Ford Motor Company and PSA-Opel, which each lose more than 12.500 sales compared to September 2016. Looking at relative growth, Tesla Motors is firing on all its kilowatts with a gain of 46%, ahead of Aston Martin and Suzuki, while Mahindra & Mahindra is the fastest declining manufacturer due to its ownership of SsangYong and loses more than a third of its Eurpoean volume. Honda and SAIC MG are also on the wrong end of the list with double digit declines.
At brand level, Suzuki is also the big winner, adding more volume than any other brand, including Seat and Dacia, which each add about 2.800 sales. Ford is the big loser at brand level too, as it suffers from a slow changeover to the new generation of its best seller Fiesta. Opel/Vauxhall loses more than 10.000 sales as well and has been in a slump ever since the brands have been taken over by PSA. Doomsday thinkers may point out that German and UK car buyers, which make up the biggest portion of sales for the former General Motors subsidiary, may have less taste for the models now that they fall under French ownership, but a large part of the explanation is simply that GM used to artificially pump up sales of Opel and Vauxhall with high discounts, sales to daily rental fleets and even self-registrations. Carlos Tavares, the CEO of PSA, is more interested in building the brands and making a good margin then in chasing volume. This automatically implies volumes will take a big initial hit before slowly recovering when the brands become stronger again and more importantly: profitable. It will be interesting to see how deep Opel/Vauxhall is allowed to sink before the planned recovery starts.
Honda remains in a slump as it sinks into irrelevance in Europe, such a contrasting performance for the brand that’s still so hugely successful in China and the US, as in each of those markets it sold almost as many cars just in September than it’s expected to sell in the entire year of 2017 in Europe. In relative terms Tesla, Chevrolet and Aston Martin are the fastest growing brands, each adding more than a third to its sales of last year, while Lotus (which ironically also just had a change of ownership, to China’s Geely), SsangYong and Cadillac all lose more than a third of their sales of last year.
September winners and losers
|Manufacturer biggest volume increase||Suzuki||3.915||Manufacturer biggest volume lost||Ford Motor Comp.||-15.882|
|Manufacturer biggest % increase||Tesla Motors||46,0%||Manufacturer biggest % lost||Mahindra & Mahindra||-35,7%|
|Brand biggest volume increase||Suzuki||3.915||Brand biggest volume lost||Ford||-15.882|
|Brand biggest % increase||Tesla||46,0%||Brand biggest % lost||Lotus||-46,8%|
Year-to-date, Renault-Nissan is still the big winner, adding almost 90.000 sales to its tally of the first 9 months of 2016, followed by Toyota Motor and FCA Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, while Honda and Mazda are joined in the losers isle by Ford Motor Company, which has dipped significantly in the red after a horrendous month of September. No changes in the rankings of relative winners and losers, with Aston Martin, Tesla Motors and General Motors as the three fastest growing manufacturers from their low bases, while Honda, Mahindra & Mahindra show double digit declines so far this year, followed by Subaru.
Toyota is the biggest gainer among brands, expanding its advantage over Mercedes-Benz, with Fiat in a stable third place. Opel/Vauxhall dealers have already sold almost 31.000 fewer cars since the beginning of this year, but keep in mind it the brand had gained 7.000 sales in the first quarter of this year and lost almost 25.000 sales just in the last 4 months. Volkswagen and DS are also among the big losers, at -18.000 sales or worse, although that means just -1,4% for VW but a third of the volume for DS. Chinese/Italian DR Motor and India’s Mahindra lose by double digits from their already low sales.
January-September winners and losers
|Manufacturer biggest volume increase||Renault-Nissan||89.178||Manufacturer biggest volume lost||Honda||-16.657|
|Toyota Motor||67.464||Ford Motor Comp.||-13.243|
|Manufacturer biggest % increase||Aston Martin||84,5%||Manufacturer biggest % lost||Honda||-13,0%|
|Tesla Motors||72,7%||Mahindra & Mahindra||-12,0%|
|General Motors||40,0%||Subaru Corp.||-7,7%|
|Brand biggest volume increase||Toyota||67.554||Brand biggest volume lost||Opel/Vauxhall||-30.859|
|Brand biggest % increase||Aston Martin||84,5%||Brand biggest % lost||DS||-33,4%|
If last month Mercedes-Benz was able to snag a record 2nd place in the brand ranking, in September it returns to the 4th place it also held in July and which was a record high ranking at that time. The German luxury brand has now outsold Opel/Vauxhall for three consecutive months, although the difference in September is only marginal. Renault manages to outsell Ford in what is usually a pretty strong month for the American brand that has a more than average dependency on the UK market, whose weakness this month in combination with the Fiesta model change have resulted in a 14,6% loss for the brand and only a third place barely ahead of Mercedes-Benz. It also means that the likeliness of Ford recovering to 2nd place in the brands ranking by the end of the year is officially close to zero. BMW is back ahead of Audi and Peugeot in September, while Fiat re-enters the top-10 after a one-month hiatus, kicking out Toyota which even falls behind Nissan for only the second time this year.
After an impressive 12th place in August, Dacia is back down to 16th place in September, despite growing faster than any brand ahead of it at +8,8%. Seat pulls of the same in 17th place and closes in on the Romanian brand, and Suzuki traditionally has a relatively weak ranking in September so is down to 21st behind Mazda despite being the fastest growing brand in the top-30. Jaguar outsells Alfa Romeo for only the second time this year thanks to its dependence on the UK market which has seasonal peaks in March and September. Tesla came within 4 sales of outperforming DS for the first time ever, but at least the American EV maker outsold both Subaru and Lancia for the first time ever.
September brands ranking
|Brand||sep-17||sep-16||change||2017 share||2016 share|
In the year-to-date ranking, the top-3 positions seem all but guaranteed to remain as is for the rest of the year, and even despite its good run lately, Mercedes-Benz is unlikely to finish 2017 ahead of Opel/Vauxhall. BMW has moved back into 8th place ahead of Fiat, while Nissan has leapfrogged Citroën in September to reclaim 12th place and Kia has done the same with Dacia for 15th place.
January – September brands ranking
|Brand||2017||2016||change||2017 share||2016 share||2016 rank|
European car sales statistics are from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. They exclude vehicles registered as commercial vehicles. Source: ANDC, JATO Dynamics