After almost 10 years of UK-only sales, SAIC MG is ready to start exports of its cars from China to other countries in Europe as well. Recently, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) has successfully launched a few crossovers in the domestic market (Roewe RX5, MG ZS), which puts its two passenger car brands among the fastest growing brands in China at the moment. This would be a great moment to expand its footprint to new markets as it can launch there with fresh product, and more importantly: the right product. MG is the designated export brand for passenger cars from SAIC, whereas Roewe is and will remain a China-only brand and Maxus is the LCV brand of the company. MG is already available in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific, South America and Africa regions, and since 2009 in the UK where it reached a peak of just under 4.200 sales last year. With its expansion into continental Europe, the brand is looking to become the first Chinese brand to successfully enter a mature market, but a number of other players have set similar goals, among others Geely with its newly launched Lynk & Co brand and the resurrected Borgward brand, which both also have concrete plans to enter the European car market. [Read more…]
Bart and Kriss couldn’t agree on whether the US is ready for a true low-cost car brand, and now they’re locking horns again on whether Volkswagen would benefit from following the highly successful Dacia strategy that has been raking in the profits at Renault.
I just don’t understand why they haven’t done this already. Like with crossovers, Volkswagen has waited too long to follow this trend and has squandered the opportunity to gain a huge volume boost. Not only from the newly-created, low-cost brand itself, but also from sharing the platforms and cost-saving technologies to some of the existing VW Group brands, most notably Skoda and VW itself in regions like South America and China, where it still sold decades-old models under the VW brand until recently. As our reader M. Hoffman commented earlier, last year 46% of worldwide sales of the Renault and Dacia brands combined were Dacia-based models, so they gained huge economies of scale without the need to launch an additional brand in every single market. In markets where Renault was an established brand, like Europe and Mediterranean Africa, Dacia filled the open slot below it, and in markets where Renault was still trying to gain a foothold, like Russia, Asia and South America, the models helped establish Renault as a top player, not necessarily with a budget-brand image.
My big worry is brand-overload over at VW Group. They already have some 12 brands in their portfolio (counting trucks and motorcycles), plus their mainstream offerings (VW, Seat, Škoda) are already rather close and the company seems unable to give them truly different characters. In a sense, the success of Dacia stems from Renault being OK with the cars being no more than acceptable by European standards, at least at first. Somehow, with German perfectionism I don’t see how they could do that – I’m afraid is that they would be unable to position the new brand low enough for it to truly remain a different offering. After all, Škoda started off as a budget offering, but quickly caught up with Seat in terms of quality and is now a mainstream brand that offers good value for money, rather than being a true value brand. [Read more…]
Earlier this month we asked our readers if they thought Fiat was on the right track with the all-new Tipo “entry-compact” sedan, by launching a low-priced and low-tech sedan (a hatchback and station wagon will follow) after every previous attempt to sell a Volkswagen Golf rival has miserably failed.
68% of respondents have faith in this strategy, with just over half of them predicting annual sales between 75.000-100.000 annual units, similar to the Skoda Rapid and Citroën C4 Cactus, while a third of respondents think the Tipo could beat the Bravo, which peaked at 93.397 sales in 2008. Another third predicts another failure for Fiat as it won’t even hit 75.000 sales in Europe. Mind you, this excludes Turkey, where the Tipo (under the name Ægea) is produced and where it should follow the Linea as the best selling vehicle overall. [Read more…]
This is the first installment of our series of car cultures around the world/international street scenes.The kind of cars the people of Morocco drive can be described very simply: all types of Renault with a number instead of a name, Peugeots from the -04 and -05 series, and increasingly so from the -06 series, and Mercedes-Benz from the same era (1970’s, 80’s and 90’s), preferably with a Diesel engine. Of the modern cars, by far the most are either French or Dacia, most notably in the bodystyle what the French call “Fourgonette”, the archetypical Boulangerie-van like the Citroën Berlingo and Renault Kangoo, both in passenger and cargo versions. Add a handful of South-Korean and Chinese models to the mix and you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of what the streets of Casablanca, Marrakech or Agadir look like.
One is used to cars designed for the Indian market often looking rather ridiculous: think tall and narrow Nano, the booted Renault Thalia (Clio), or, even worse, the Suzuki Swift sedan. That is why the newest Renault for the Indian market, the Kwid, is a very pleasant surprise – it not only looks good, it looks European-good! Not only that, it is based on an all-new CMF-A platform from the Renault-Nissan alliance, though a 0.8-liter petrol unit will likely ensure its more “show” than “go”. Still, starting at below $5,000 in India, the car looks to be a great hit, and will surely be sold in markets around the world.
What is weird about it, though, is that it looks a whole lot like another car from Renault’s sister company: the Dacia Sandero Stepway. A smaller, better-executed version, sure – but the family resemblance is undeniable.
The small crossover segment has already topped half a million sales after three quarters of the year and has already broken the full year 2013 tally by a large margin. By the end of the year, a total of 670.000 small crossovers may have hit European streets, of which the top-5 players take a combined share of 92%.
Thanks to the popularity of the segment in their home market France, the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Dacia Duster take the podium positions of the segment. Or is it the other way around? Are small crossover sales in France ahead of the rest of the continent because their incumbent brands have introduced the hottest new models last year? Either way, the Captur remains the leader of the pack and the only model above 20% segment share, but behind it is a tight three-way race. Year-to-date, the 2008 is well ahead of the Duster and the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka, but when looking at the third quarter, less than 125 sales separate the three models.
The Duster almost outsold the Captur in July and actually did so in the slow month of August, but it fell back in September. Sales of the Mokka have headed in the opposite direction, losing ground in July and August, but making it all up in September at it came within 400 units of the Captur. [Read more…]
Sales of midsized MPVs in Europe are down less than 6.000 units, or 1% on the first three quarters of last year. Only three models increase their sales more than 2%, including one all-new model, while the rest either loses ground or stays virtually stable.
The Citroën C4 (Grand) Picasso continues its strong performance, now grabbing 15,6% of the segment and extending its lead over the traditional leader Renault (Grand) Scenic. If the Picasso holds on to its lead until the end of the year, it would be only the second time ever that the Scenic doesn’t lead the segment it invented in 1996. In 2008 it was also Citroën who kicked the Scenic down. However, the French may have a battle on their own turf next year, as the recently introduced Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan was the best selling midsized MPV in September. Despite having half as many selling days as the rest of the segment, the Sportsvan has already moved in to 7th place of the segment and doesn’t seem to take any prisoners. [Read more…]
Sales of subcompact cars in Europe remain stable at a 1% growth year-on-year after the first nine months of 2014. It remains the largest segment of the continent at almost 2 million units sold.
The traditional leader Ford Fiesta has taken some distance from the Renault Clio in second place, mainly thanks to an excellent month of September, in which the small Ford outsold all of its rivals by a margin of at least 10.000 units, similar to last March. These months are the peak months in the UK market, where the Fiesta is particularly strong. In August, the Fiesta was outsold by both the VW Polo and the Clio. The Polo has just been facelifted and has outsold the Renault Clio in both August and September. I think the advantage of the Clio is large enough to hold onto its position until the end of the year, but it better prepare for a battle in 2015.
The Peugeot 208 continues to struggle, down 10% on last year. A Peugeot spokesperson at the Paris Auto Show last month explained to me that the brand prefers profit over volume and therefore chooses not to dump the model to rental companies at very low margins. Also, the 208 is set to get a facelift next year to keep it fresh.
A recent facelift of the Toyota Yaris, with the new X-shaped front-end that’s the brand’s new family face is likely to keep the small Toyota in the plus this year. [Read more…]
Small SUV’s and crossovers are still the hottest segment after the first six months of 2014, although the growth rate has slowed as two of the hottest new entrants started sales in the second quarter of last year.
No changes in the top-5 ranking since the first quarter means the Renault Captur is still firmly in the lead, but its superiority has shown some cracks. The Peugeot 2008 outsold its French competitor in May, before the Captur struck back with a record month of June, topping 20.000 units for the first time ever, which is almost double the model’s selling rate in the first two months of the year.
Similarly, the Dacia Duster was outsold by the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka for the second time this year in May, but the Duster has held on to its podium spot thanks to excellent performances in April and especially May, when it even outsold the 2008. [Read more…]
European consumers bought slightly less midsized MPV’s in the first half of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013.
After grabbing the lead of the segment in the first quarter of this year, the Citroën C4 (Grand) Picasso has left the segment’s initiator Renault (Grand) Scenic in second place. The Picasso’s unconventional design has clearly struck a chord with young families and account managers, the biggest groups of buyers in this segment.
The facelifted Scenic did take advantage of an excellent month of June for the Renault brand across almost all models to cut into the Citroën’s lead by about 2.000 units, but such a sudden and inexplicable spike in sales is usually followed by a couple of weaker months to even out the balance. So I expect 2014 to be the second year ever that the Scenic is not the king of the midsized MPV segment. The first time this happened, in 2008, it was the previous generation (Grand) Picasso to do the trick. [Read more…]