European sales 2014 Midsized MPV segment

The European midsized MPV segment has been shaken up this year, although a 2% overall drop in sales doesn’t fully reflect the fierce competition between some of the top sellers.

Midsized_MPV-segment-European-sales-2014-Citroen_C4_PicassoExcluding the newly arrived VW Golf Sportsvan, only three other models manage to improve their sales, of which one by less than 50 units. Big winner is the Citroën C4 Picasso/Grand Picasso, adding over 30.000 units and stealing the leadership from the Renault Scenic/Grand Scenic for only the second time since the latter created the segment almost 2 decades ago. With a new generation Scenic not due in showrooms until 2016, Citroën has a shot of making it two in a row. However, there’s a new challenger in the segment, which has made a thunderous arrival. Replacing the aging VW Golf Plus which never has ranked higher than 5th in the segment, the Golf Sportsvan boldly took first place in four of the last five months of the year, signaling it has its sights set on the segment leadership in 2015, even without a 7-seater option, which is reserved for the aging Volkswagen Touran.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2014 Small MPV segment

Small_MPV-segment-European-sales-2014-Fiat_500LSales of small MPVs in Europe have seem to hit a ceiling at just over 400.000 annual sales, as customers prefer the much more trendy small crossovers. Only two models manage to increase sales and do so by a large margin, while the rest of the segment is struggling. With the segment leader 500L soon to get internal competition from the 500X crossover, and no new models planned for the year, I predict the segment to take a big hit in 2015 and easily fall below 400.000 sales for only the second time in a decade. It may even drop as low as 350.000 sales, while the overall market remains stable or may even show a slight increase again.

Sales of the two segment leaders Fiat 500L and Nissan Note were both down in each of the last two months of the year, indicating their impressive winning streak in 2014 isn’t likely to continue into 2015. The 500L reaches record sales for the model at 94.000 units, while the Note clocks its best year since 2007. Contrastingly, even though sales of the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva remain relatively stable, the model is still down more than half on as recent as 2011.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2014 Midsize segment

Midsized_car-segment-European-sales-2014-VW_PassatThe European midsized car segment is the fastest declining segment in the market, contracting 8% in 2014 to the lowest figure ever and down more than 50% on as recent as 2007. Only four out of 21 models managed to increase year-over-year sales, and if the fact that the top-3 models now account for over 55% of segment sales isn’t enough as a sign of the segment’s defragmentation, no less than 7 nameplates are either already out of production or will be pulled from the market without a replacement soon: Honda Accord, Opel/Vauxhall Ampera, Renault Latitude, Chevrolet Malibu, Suzuki Kizashi, Seat Exeo and Chevrolet Volt.

That doesn’t mean the segment is officially dead, as there are also 8 new or facelifted models due in showrooms this year, while the new generations Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo have just started customer deliveries. As a result, the midsize segment should be able to return to growth in 2015, making it the second time to do so since 2001.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2014 Compact segment

Thanks to a flood of redesigned models, the compact car segment has grown faster than the overall market and has closed in on subcompact cars as the continent’s biggest segment. However, with no more new products in the pipeline until the end of the year and ever-more competition from premium compact rivals as well as small crossovers, 2015 may prove a difficult year for compact cars.

Compact_car-segment-European-sales-2014-VW_Golf-Skoda_Octavia-Seat_Leon

Photo credit: Top Gear

Volkswagen Group is still ultra-dominant, increasing its share of the segment to 44% with over 1 million units sold. Of these, 865.000 are underpinned by VW’s new modular MQB platform, a number which increases to over a million units when we include the Audi A3, the premium compact segment leader, which would rank in fourth place overall if the two segments were to be combined.

Possibly even more impressive than the record 23% share of the Volkswagen Golf is the first-ever top-3 ranking of the Skoda Octavia, not that far off the second place of the Ford Focus. … Continue Reading …

European sales 2014 Subcompact segment

Sales in the European subcompact segment have stabilized in the second half of 2014 after increasing slightly in the beginning of the year. With over 2,5 million cars sold, it remains Europe’s largest segment.

Subcompact_car-segment-European-sales-2014-Ford_FiestaEven though sales of the model slowed in the fourth quarter, the segment’s bestseller Ford Fiesta has managed to fend off a simultaneous coup by the Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo. However, both these models outsold the Fiesta in each of the last four months of the year, so taking the 2015 crown again is not a matter of course for the small Ford.

Add to that a facelift (although GM likes to call it a new generation) of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa in the beginning of the year, and the subcompact segment may turn out to be one of the most heavily contested in the market this year.… Continue Reading …

European sales 2014 Minicar segment

Minicar-sales-europe-2014-Fiat_500-Fiat_Panda-Volkswagen_UpEuropean sales in the minicar segment have climbed back into the positive over the full year 2014, although the increase is just a meager 1% on 2013, or 8.170 units. This is a result of the flood of new models that arrived in showrooms late last year, which should help the minicar segment grow faster than the overall market in 2015.

Despite its age, the Fiat 500 not only consolidates its leadership of the segment by adding the most sales of all models, it also breaks its 2009 annual sales record to make 2014 its best year ever. The 500 all by itself sells more cars in Europe than the Peugeot 107/108, Toyota Aygo and Citroën C1 triplets combined, and doing so at (much) higher transaction prices. And with the Panda remaining stable in second spot, Fiat increases its share of the minicar segment to over 27%.

The Volkswagen Up! is starting to feel the heat of the increased competition by its nearest competitors, but its third place remains unchallenged for now. It’s actually more stable than its siblings Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii, and now accounts for two thirds of the triplet’s combined sales.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis full year 2014 – models

After discussing the full year 2014 European car brands ranking, let’s see which models have fueled their respective brands’ success or failure.

European-auto-sales-statistics-2014-full-year-Volkswagen-dealershipIn the top-10, the Golf naturally reigns supreme, and with 61.000 additional sales, it adds “a Citroën C4” to its sales volume compared to 2013. It’s still followed by four subcompacts, of which the Fiesta, Clio and Polo have stayed very close together, each adding between 14.700 and 15.900 sales last year, as the Corsa falls behind a bit. But so does the Peugeot 208, the biggest loser in the top-10.

The Skoda Octavia has its best sales in Europe ever and together with the Audi A3 it kicks the Opel/Vauxhall Astra and BMW 3-series out of the top-10, while the Nissan Qashqai enjoys its fifth straight year with over 200.000 sales.

The Astra on the other hand has its worst year ever, down another 9,5% after dipping below 200.000 sales for the first time last year. The Opel/Vauxhall compact is now threatened by the Peugeot 308, which looks set to outsell the Astra for the very first time ever, although its predecessor 307 has done this as well from 2002 till 2004. … Continue Reading …

Why Volkswagen designers are lazy but smart

Audi_A3-koalaAudi exterior designers are known in the automotive world to be among the laziest in the business, they’re the automotive design equivalent of koalas: sleeping for 18 hours a day until a deadline approaches, at which time they’ll just pull an existing design from the drawer and make a few quick changes and then convince their bosses that evolutionary design keeps the outgoing model from looking old, which should help resale values of the brand. And the amazing thing is that they actually get away with it, because apparently it does seem to work like that, not only in theory.

And now Volkswagen designers seem to have been contaminated by the same laziness virus, as they’ve first proven with the “eighth” generation Passat, which really should be called the seven-and-a-halfth generation, especially when looking at it from the rear three quarters. Usually, a new model generation would imply that the car is completely redesigned, while a facelift means that the so-called hard points, like the window frames and door pillars stay the same, and only minor changes are made to the headlights and taillights, with subsequently the hood and boot lid, and sometimes even the front wings.

Volkswagen_Passat-rear-quarter-designBut with the Passat, they couldn’t be bothered to change the C-pillar, or even something simple like the shape of the rear lights or fender, which means it should be classified as only a minor facelift, even if the platform and engines have been completely reworked. The designers must have realized this when they saw the final clay model, and in order to make the world believe they had actually done any work, they sneaked back into the studio the night before the design was frozen and quickly made the belt line a bit more pronounced.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis full year 2014 – brands

European-auto-sales-statistics-2014-full-year-Jeep_RenegadeDecember 2014 automobile sales in Europe increased 4,8%, which means car sales have increased every single month in 2014, for the first time in at least a decade. The full year 2014 increase stood at 5,25% to 12,94 million units, making it the best year of the last three years, but also still the third-worst since at least 1997. The UK market has been one of the biggest contributors to this growth, making up about a third of the whole continent’s added volume last year. And as the UK market is showing signs of a slowdown of its growth, and key markets like France and Germany seem unable to pick up speed, I don’t expect 2015 to become a blockbuster year like 2014 has been for North American autodealers.

European-auto-sales-statistics-2014-full-year-Infiniti-Q30Only seven major brands saw their sales decrease on 2013, while 22 brands grew faster than the market. Of the 2014 winners, Jeep (+69,5%) is expected to continue its impressive run in 2015, fueled by early signs of success from the small crossover Jeep Renegade, while Lexus will continue to reap the benefits of the NX compact premium SUV and Infiniti (+76%) should take profit from the addition of the Q30 compact premium car and QX30 compact premium SUV in the second half of the year.… Continue Reading …

Driving in Africa: the taxis of Morocco

This is part 2 in the series of articles on the North-African automotive landscape and my experience driving there. Part 1 was about getting a rental car in Morocco.

Taxi_stand-Agadir-Morocco-Peugeot_205-Mercedes_240dWhen stepping outside of a Moroccan airport, one of the first things you’ll notice is the long line of Mercedes-Benz taxis. Not the contemporary version, but almost all the W123 model from the 1970s and to a lesser extent the W124 model from the 1980s. I initially thought that this had something to do with them being specific airport taxis, but I would later discover that the streets all over Morocco are flooded with these smoky old diesels, which aren’t granted a well-deserved quiet retirement after a tough initial life in Europe. Rather, they are abused harder than ever, and maintenance in Morocco means that they fix a car when it breaks down.

Petit taxis

Taxi_stand-Agadir-Morocco-Peugeot_205-Mercedes_240dThere are two types of taxis in Morocco: mini taxis (Petit taxi) and Grand taxis. The mini taxis take you within city limits to your destination for a fixed price of about 80 cents per ride, or 1.20 Euros at night. … Continue Reading …