US sales 2017-Q1 Minivan segment

US-sales-minivan-segment-2016-Honda_Odyssey-Toyota_Sienna-Kia_Sedona-Nissan_Quest-Dodge_Grand_CaravanAfter growing slightly in 2016, the Minivan segment is back in decline in the first quarter of 2017 with sales down 14.4% to 122,787 units. The segment that sold over 1.2 million units a year in its peak years 1999 and 2000, and still made up over a million sales as recently as 2005 has hovered around half that figure since 2009 and can’t seem to make a decent recovery as 7-seater crossovers are simply more trendy than minivans, which suffer from their soccer-mom image even though they’re much more practical and efficient in real life. Even the all-new Chrysler Pacifica can’t reverse the slide, and if even the new Honda Odyssey, due later this year, can’t stabilize the segment, it may be doomed.

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US sales 2017-Q1 Large segment

US large segmentThe Large Car segment fell by almost as much as the Midsized segment in the first quarter of 2017: down 18.4% to 104,985 sales. The segment that has already completely disappeared in Europe about 10 years ago is in danger of extinction in the US too, as there are few plans for new models anytime soon (just the new generation of the slow-selling Azera), so the double digit declines are likely to continue through the rest of this year. There basically are two tiers in this segment: the still relatively fresh models (Impala, Maxima, LaCrosse, Cadenza) and the decade-old models that have seen their life cycles extended for yet another few years (Charger, 300, Taurus) or which will be axed soon (SS, Caprice). The one stuck in the middle is the Avalon at 5 years old. Of the 11 nameplates in this segment, 7 showed double digit declines, only three showed single digit declines and a single model improved (Chevy SS), and that’s probably because dealers are dumping off their last remaining stock before the model is killed off.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2017-Q1 Mid-sized segment

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Sales of Mid-sized cars in the US are in a similar tough spot as in Europe: down by 19.2% in Q1 of 2017 and dipping below half a million units at 472,692 sales. This is the worst drop among all mainstream segments and second to only the premium large car segment. As a result, the compact car segment has now become larger in volume than the midsized car segment, and if it keeps this position until the end of this year it would be the very first time ever that the midsized segment is not the largest mainstream car segment in the US. And with the large pickup truck segment also outselling the midsized cars in Q1, this segment has gone from perennial #1 until 2015 to out of the top-3 so far in 2017. The main culprit for this demise is obviously a shift towards compact crossovers, the largest segment since last year. This trend is clearly visible in the March and Q1 model rankings: if the Camry and Accord used to fight for the title of best selling non-pickup in America, now the Accord is out of the overall top-10 and the Camry is outsold by the Nissan Rogue, with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 right on its heels.

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US sales 2017-Q1 Compact segment

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Sales in the Compact segment continue their slow but steady decline with a 3.4% loss in Q1 of 2017, to 532,744 units, although that’s a lower rate of decline than for the full year 2016 and significantly better than the double digit declines of the subcompact and midsized car segments. Within the segment, there are some clear changes in the ranking, with 6 models in the top-15 showing double digit gains and another 4 showing double digit declines. The two perennial segment leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla hold on to their controlling lead but are losing a bit of share as both show single digit declines in the first quarter.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2017-Q1 Subcompact segment

While minicars rebounded in Q1 of 2017, the subcompact car segment started the year deep in the red with a loss of 15.7% compared to the first quarter of 2016, for a total of 117,995 sales. The segment top-3 all lost with double digits, as the rise of the subcompact crossover segment undoubtedly plays a role in the struggles of the similarly sized sedans and hatchbacks. Then again, no less than four out of the nine players are due to be renewed this year (Chevrolet SonicFord FiestaHyundai Accent and Kia Rio), while two others are in the second half of their life-cycle (Nissan VersaToyota Yaris) as well.

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Look-a-like: Bentley Bentayga and…

The Bentayga Bentayga has gotten plenty of flack ever since it came out, and pretty deservedly in my opinion. First, there is the shape with its long front overhang, which largely determined by hard points inherited from its platform twin, the Audi Q7, and which lacks the gloriously long hood that gives the Mulsanne and even the Continental GT their recognizable look. But Bentley did itself no favors with the detailing either – the oft-maligned cock-eyed front, the gauche fake air outlets in the front fenders, or the overdrawn “power curve” over the rear wheels that was cribbed from the Continental GT and forced onto a slab-sided SUV surface. But my biggest disappointment was always the rear, which is the worst thing for a luxury car – anonymous. The blame here lies mostly with the rear lights, which on top of being rather bland also remind of those of a mainstream non-premium car…

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US sales 2017-Q1 Minicar segment

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The Minicar segment in the United States has returned to growth in 2017 after an abysmal 2016 when sales dipped with double digits. In the first quarter of 2017, sales of North America’s smallest vehicles grew by 8.5% to 27,388 units. Fueling this increased demand were the new generation Chevrolet Spark and the facelift of the Mitsubishi Mirage, which have now taken over the first two spots of the segment podium, knocking the former leader Mini Cooper down to third. The Fiat 500 appears to have hit rock bottom and slightly recovers this year

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US sales: March 2017, models

US-sales-March-2017-compact_crossover-segmentAfter discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for March, let’s take a closer look at the models ranking. If the top-3 is traditionally pretty stable, in March the RAM Pickup outsold its rival Chevrolet Silverado for only the second time in 36 months as sales of the latter dipped 11.6%, resulting in a loss for the first quarter. The Silverado’s sibling GMC Sierra in 20th place also takes a hit in March to dip into the red for the quarter. Big surprise this year is the surging Nissan Rogue, taking the title of best selling non-pickup truck with sales up more than 40% and it continues this streak in March, not only outselling its rivals Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but also the traditional #4 Toyota Camry, which is down 3.6% for the month and 13.3% for the quarter. The Camry’s midsized sedan rivals Nissan Altima and Honda Accord take even bigger hits in March, and all remaining sedan models in the top-10 lose volume this month. This underscores the shift away from sedans to crossovers, which has never been as apparent as now: in the first quarter of 2017, 63% of vehicles sold in the US were “light trucks”: pickups, SUVs, crossovers and minivans, compared to just 37% for cars: sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons. The last time the difference between cars and light trucks was this large was in 1993, when cars took 61,2% of the market and light trucks just 38,8%. Of the 104 models that showed a year-over-year increase in March, 55 were light trucks and 49 were cars, while of the 162 losers, 92 were cars vs. 70 light trucks.  This trend is even stronger visible in the US than in Europe, where crossovers are also taking share away from cars.… Continue Reading …

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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