The European car market continues its steady growth in 2017 as almost 1,19 million passenger cars were sold in January, an increase of 8,7% on the previous year and a 16% increase on 2015. Some of this gain can be attributed to additional business days so we’ll have to wait until the February data is published to see how the market develops at the start of 2017. On a positive note, 21 out of the 30 countries show double digit gains, including 4 out of the 5 major markets: Spain (+10,7%), France (+10,6%), Germany (+10,5%) and Italy (+10,1%) while the UK market grew at a more modest rate of +2.9%. Only 3 countries showed declines: Switzerland (-3,7%), Ireland (-1,8%) and Slovakia (-1,2%). Big loser of 2016 The Netherlands rebounds to become the big winner with sales up 27,1%.
Car sales in 2017 so far look like they won’t be able to match the record set in 2016 – for the second month in a row the market recorded a slight decline in sales compared to last year, with February sales falling by 0.8% to 1,332,176 units.
The Chinese car market was down 0,6% in January, which is actually surprisingly strong if you consider these two factors: January had five fewer selling days than in 2016 because of the timing of the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, and the expected impact of the tax increase on cars with engines of 1,6 liters or less. These cars had received a tax cut from 10% to 5% since Q4 of 2015, which was increased to 7,5% in January before a next step back to 10% in 2018. Considering 72% of sales during this period were cars that qualified for the tax cut, the increase was expected to have a dimming effect on the market in the first quarter of this year. In that light, half a percent loss is not representative for the rest of the year, and doomsday thinkers will have to wait until February results before we can draw any conclusions about a slowing of demand in the worlds largest and fastest growing car markets. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate of 25,8 million is a fair indication the market is still healthy as it’s still 1,6 million higher than January last year. A total of 2,17 million locally produced passenger cars were sold in China in January, still the second best ever January by a large margin. Crossover and SUV sales were of course the strongest segment with 11% growth on last year to almost 881.000 units, while sedans lost 3% of their volume to 1,08 million sales. MPVs, which had shown steady growth until recently, decline a shocking 21% to just over 206.000 sales. Local brands had a 42,8% share of the market, which is lower than January last year and lower than December, but still higher than the 2016 full year figure.… Continue Reading …
EV and PHEV sales in Europe have set another record in 2016, but the growth curve has significantly slowed, with just a 7% gain for battery electric cars and 17% for Plug-in hybrid cars, compared to an overall market up 6,2%. As a result, combined sales of all plug-in vehicles grew from 1,4% of the market in 2015 to 1,5% in 2016. While we hit the 100.000 annual sales milestone for PHEVs, EVs missed that target by just 2.500 units, as customers were waiting for the “next generation” EVs with longer range which arrived late 2016 (BMW i3) or early 2017 (Renault Zoe, VW e-Golf). Also, a number of governments, most notably Denmark and Sweden, have dialed back on their EV incentives in 2016 while Germany’s new EV and PHEV subsidy hasn’t made a big impact yet. In The Netherlands, an incentive on PHEV’s as company cars was cut in 2017 so that boosted deliveries of these vehicles in the last few months as customers wanted to benefit from the incentives before they ended. As a result, 2017 PHEV sales are expected to crash and burn in The Netherlands while EVs are expected to show healthy growth there because this will be the only type of vehicle to receive government incentives.
The exotic car segment in Europe grew at double the overall market growth in 2016, at +12%, helped by a handful of new products. But the leader of the segment remains unchanged, even though the Bentley Continental GT gains just 5% and therefore loses 2 percentage point of share. In Q4, the Continental GT was even down a worrying 11,5%. The Ferrari 488 continues where its predecessor 458 Italia left off: in 2nd spot, ahead of chief rival Lamborghini Huracan, which also gains just 5%, but had a more positive Q4 at +64%. The Ferrari F12, about to be replaced by the 812 Superfast in 2017, almost doubles its sales in the fourth quarter to finish the year with a 31% gain. 2016 has been a great year for Italian V12 supercars, because Lamborghini Aventador does even better at +135% in the fourth quarter and +48% for the year.
The large passenger van segment in Europe was very dynamic in 2016, with a handful of new models entering the segment and a 21% gain in overall sales to 200.000 units, as the entire top-5 showed double digit increases. The Volkswagen T6 Transporter/Multivan stays dominant with a third of all sales in this segment. Even if we combine sales of the Mercedes-Benz V-Class and Vito (as VW also does with its Multivan and Transporter, the luxury version and the basic version), the T6 would be 20.000 units ahead of its closest rival. The Fiat Ducato holds on to its podium spot thanks to strong sales in springtime, the high season for campervans, the bulk of Ducato sales. In Q4, the Fiat was in a distant 6th place with just a fifth of its volume in Q2. The V-Class gains 29% and was the clear #2 in the last quarter, and as mentioned above, would be in 2nd place for the year as well when combined with sister model Vito.
If you thought (or were hoping) the SUV-boom is going to end anytime soon, think again. Sales of the biggest and most expensive Off-roaders that hardly ever actually go off road rose by another 19% in 2016, which makes this the third consecutive year of double digit growth for the segment. That means in those three years European buyers have scooped up an additional 100.000 large premium SUVs annually to a total of almost 290.000 per year. If there was a clear and dominant leader the year before, in 2016 the #2 and #3 were within 10% of the leader. The BMW X5 still tops the charts but lost 3 percentage points of share as the competition has reloaded with fresh models. In fact, the X5 was in third place in Q4, behind the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, albeit by a tiny margin. The Swedish SUV is up 73% to take 2nd place while the Q7 gains 61% to move into 3rd place, both helped by their new generations which replace models that were first launched in 2002 and 2005 respectively. For the XC90 2016 also sets a new volume record, selling just 300 units more than in 2005.
The midsized premium SUV segment is one of the fastest growing in Europe, with sales up 29% in 2016 compared to an overall market up 6,2%. All remaining models improve their sales and 9 out of the top-10 set new sales records, but Mercedes-Benz and the British brands are the biggest winners this year. Still, the Volvo XC60 holds on to its segment lead and scores a record volume for the third year in a row, even though it’s the oldest model in the segment and about to be replaced in 2017. Sales of the Swedish model were up 20% in Q4, perhaps because some prospective buyers for a V70 or XC70 found these to be out of production. The new #2 of the segment is the Mercedes-Benz GLC, more than doubling the sales record of its predecessor GLK, whose design just didn’t vibe with customers in this segment. Needless to say this is also the highest position the brand has ever finished in this segment. The GLC (which includes the Coupe version) will be aiming for a top spot in 2017 as Volvo may lose some sales during the changeover to the new generation XC60, but there will be competition from the all-new Audi Q5, which had held on to its 2nd place until November and lost out by just 83 sales.
The premium large car segment in Europe is in dire straits with a loss of 6% in 2016 but a more painful -13% in Q4. Only one model in the top-10 manages to improve its volume: the new leader Mercedes-Benz E-Class, helped by the new generation. The E-Class was up 17% for the year and an even more impressive 32% in Q4. To be fair, this includes sales of the coupe version, which Audi doesn’t offer in this class and BMW has split off from the 5-Series as the 6-Series. The Audi A6 and BMW 5-series are actually impressively stable considering their age compared to the fresh E-Class. The A6 was down just 2% (-10% in Q4) and its new generation isn’t expected until 2018, while the 5-Series lost 8% (-2% in Q4) while the new generation had already been revealed and has entered showrooms early 2017.