In its third month of the year the US car market is still yet to register a month of growth, with March sales falling by 3.1% relative to the same month in 2018. Year to date, in 2019, sales are now 3.0% down on 2018, suggesting that this year may be the first downturn in the market in many years.
After a 7% decline in January and a 2,6% decline in February, European new car sales were down by 3,7% in March 2019, to 1,76 million sales. For the first quarter of the year, sales are down 4,4% to 4,07 million units. Most of the decline can still be attributed to the after effects of the introduction of new fuel efficiency and emissions testing standard called WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure) in September. March sales figures are traditionally heavily influenced by the UK market, for which this is the highest volume month of the year by far. Fortunately, despite all the uncertainties facing this market, its decline was not as bad as generally expected. However, all major European markets were in the red in March, as Italy posted the highest percentage drop (-9,6%), followed by Spain (-4,3%), the United Kingdom (-3,4%), France (-2,3%) and Germany (-0,5%). Just nine out of the 30 countries of the EU and EFTA showed growth in March, with the fastest growing markets Lithuania (+43,8%), Denmark (+33,2%), Norway (+27,6%), and Romania (+20,8%). In the first quarter registrations remained almost flat in Germany (+0,2%), while the other key markets performed worse than in the first quarter of 2018, most notably Spain (-6,9%) and Italy (-6,5%).
After six months of double digit declines, the Chinese passenger car market slows its downfall with a 9,6% loss of sales in March 2019. That marks the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year losses, but nonetheless a modest bright spot for the world’s largest car market. In March, a total of 1,93 million domestically produced passenger cars were sold in China, which brings the Q1 total to 5,15 million sales, down 14,4% on Q1 of 2018. These figures exclude commercial vehicles, minivans and imported cars. In the short term, the Beijing government is not planning any incentives to prop up the market, and in fact is sharply reducing subsidies on one of the fastest growing segments of the Chinese car market: that of EVs and plug-in hybrids. Rather, the government seems to see this market contraction as an excellent opportunity to consolidate the market as (too) small players will be forced to close down or be taken over, while the larger state-owned carmakers also feel extra pressure to merge their operations and cut loss-making domestic brands.
After looking at the March 2018 car brand sales in Europe, let’s look at individual model sales. After having its long-time streak on top of the ranking broken exactly one year ago when the Ford Fiesta briefly finished in the top spot, the Volkswagen Golf seems stronger than ever with a lead over over 14.000 sales over its closest rival as it’s the fastest growing nameplate in the top-15. Traditionally strong in March due to its sales leadership in the UK market, the Fiesta is back up into second place ahead of the Renault Clio but not with the kind of margin we’re used to, especially considering the little Ford is still brand new and the Clio is starting to age. [Read more…]
In March, European sales of passenger cars declined for the first time in 2018 and for the fourth time in 12 months. A loss of -4,7% means 1,83 million cars were sold in Europe this month, traditionally by far the biggest month of the year (see graph), due to the influence of the UK market, where the twice yearly license plate change (now to the “18” registrations) pushes car sales to a peak. As a result, the UK is the biggest market in Europe in March, taking 25,8% of the total market compared to just over 16% over the whole year. The 15,7% decline in UK car sales this month represents 87% of the total European loss as the rest of the European markets combined were down by just 0,9% in March. Among the major markets, new car sales also declined in Italy (-5,8%) and Germany (-3,4%), but France (+2,2%) and Spain (+2,1%) posted growth.
Sales of domestic passenger cars in China continue to increase slowly but steadily in March 2018 with a 5% gain to 2,1 million. This brings the first-quarter figure to just a handful of sales over 6 million, a 4% increase on Q1 of 2017. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in March is up to 24,8 million, similar to January and about 400.000 below February but more importantly up 1,3 million on March 2017. [Read more…]
The European car market declined by 7% in April 2017 as a collapsing UK market exacerbated a general slowdown across the continent which was caused by having fewer selling days than in 2016 due to a late Easter. Still, the almost 1,22 million cars sold in April is still slightly better than the same month in 2015. As mentioned, the biggest culprit of the decline is the British market, which declined by almost 20% on last year as the result of an increase in the Vehicle Excise Duty tax which came in effect on April 1st in the UK. Another part of the explanation for the plummeting sales is that Easter fell in April this year instead of in March, which means dealers had fewer selling days in 2017. Combined sales of March and April are still up by 2,9% on 2016. The UK market is expected to stabilize as the year proceeds, as the effect of the tax raise will wither away. The Year-to-date figure now stands at 5,44 million units, an increase of 4% on the first four months of 2016.
Of the big markets, only the Spanish market grew in April (+1,1%), as the UK posted a double-digit drop (-19,8%) and Germany (-8%), France (-6%) and Italy (-4,6%) also lost volume. This was balanced by positive contributions from the so-called EU-12 countries (+8.2%), the member states that have joined the EU since 2004. The fastest growing market was Croatia (+29,6%), while Ireland was the biggest loser at -24,5%. [Read more…]
The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with over 400 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the March 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 11 new models: 6 crossovers, a sedan, a hatchback and an EV version of an existing crossover. In the April 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 9 new models: 5 crossovers, 1 MPV and 3 sedans (of which 2 EVs).
After a successful launch of its first crossover, the Roewe RX5, SAIC launches its first sedan with its new corporate design, and it immediately is one of the most mature looking Chinese sedans on the market. Gone are all the frivolous shapes and shiny chrome accents, well except for the grille, that is. You could almost call it boring. The i6 launches in one of the most difficult segments in China, that of affordable compact sedans, but still a segment with a lot of potential. Power comes from either a 1,0T three-cylinder with 125hp/170Nm mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox or a 1,5T with 170hp/250Nm also mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox. A PHEV version named i6e will follow soon, powered by a 1-liter three-cylinder withh 125hp and a 82hp electric motor. Dimensions are 4.671/1.835/4.460mm with a wheelbase of 2.715mm. [Read more…]