Disappointments of 2015 and 2016: Europe

A new year is always a nice opportunity to reflect on the past year and in our case, that means looking at which cars have sold disappointingly slow in 2015 and which do we expect to disappoint in 2016. We’ll also look at which cars or brands have surprised from a sales volume point of view in a separate article.

Which cars had disappointing sales in 2015:

DS4-sales-disappointment-Europe-2015Citroën split off its premium models into a stand-alone brand, but all it really did was just remove the Citroën name from two of the three cars they offer when they were given a slight facelift. The French didn’t bother to launch any new models, while the brand desperately needs some fresh product if they want to become a true luxury player. Unfortunately, nothing new is on its way and the DS6 compact crossover which could’ve saved the brand will stay a China-only model. Sales were down in 10 of the 11 months so far, with November the only exception, possibly thanks to those facelifts.
The European luxury market is a tough place if you’re a non-German brand, so if you want to make it here, you’d better get your act together quickly, DS.

Honda_HRV-sales-disappointment-Europe-2015The only manufacturer to lose volume so far this year, although it may finish 2015 (just) in the black after a record low volume last year. The brand has dipped below 1% market share for the first time ever and that’s despite the introduction of the Honda HR-V into the popular small crossover segment. Perhaps it didn’t help that the HR-V was already two years old by the time it reached Europe. And we’re still waiting for a new Honda Jazz, which went on sale in September 2013 in Japan.
I don’t understand anymore what the added value of Honda is for the European car market: they’re not particularly more reliable than their competitors, not particularly stylish or fuel efficient, and they don’t have any hybrids anymore.
Meanwhile, the Accord, Insight and CR-Z have been put out of their misery, leaving the brand with just four models. The introduction of the Honda Civic station wagon hasn’t helped the model at all, with sales virtually flat on last year.
Honda has had a fantastic 2015 worldwide, with sales records in more than a handful countries, but its European sales have been lingering for years, to the point where they’re selling as many cars a month in the US as they do in a whole year in Europe.
Do it right or don’t do it at all, Honda. If you’re not committed to the European market, you might as well pull out entirely.
Hyundai i20
Hyundai_i20-sales-disappointment-Europe-2015In the final month of 2014, Hyundai launched its new generation i20 subcompact car, which promised to be the breakthrough model for the brand which had been slowly losing market share in the previous three years after almost doubling it in the four year prior to that. The outgoing Hyundai i20 had been selling surprisingly well in the last stage of its life cycle, reaching its record annual volume in its final year and even record monthly sales in September 2014, right before the new model was to arrive.
Surely, the new generation i20 has improved further on that annual record, and has even become the best selling Hyundai model in 2015 as the former leader ix35 suffered from the introduction of the Tucson as its replacement. But the improvement has been only slightly: up less than 10% and the new model has even lost volume on the old one from September to November. And that’s despite the addition of the i20 Coupe and the i20 Active.
I had expected the new i20 to take a significant step to close in on the top-8 of the subcompact segment, but so far it’s still outside of the top-10 at less than a third of the volume of the three segment leaders.

Which cars may sell disappointingly in 2016:

Ford_Ka-sales-disappointment-Europe-2016The brand’s One Ford strategy, which is based on reaching economies of scale by selling the same model in different markets around the world, seems to be taking its toll in Europe. Ford has launched cars that are not perfectly suited to the competitive European car market, but are compromised because they also need to be sold elsewhere.
Take for example the Ford EcoSport: a small SUV designed to be sold in developing markets like India and South America, where the standards for ride, refinement and interior quality are lower than in Europe. As a result, the EcoSport struggled to gain acceptance in the very competitive segment. Only after they made some improvements to the model, its sales started to rise, but still a long way from the leaders in the segment. In 2016, Ford will make the same mistake again, as the new generation Ka minicar is no longer a co-operation with the top-selling minicar brand in Europe (Fiat builds the current Ka on the same platform as the 500 and Panda), but by importing one that’s been developed for Brazil and whose styling a) doesn’t remind of the characteristic first generation Ka and b) won’t appeal to European buyers. Remember the Volkswagen Fox? That was a similar mistake.
Ford has just launched the new Mustang in Europe for the first time ever, but that will remain a niche product, while the upcoming Edge large SUV is simply too “American” for the taste of Europeans and will struggle against the established competition Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
Also, the new Mondeo doesn’t seem to catch on and was launched two years too late (hello Honda), and so are the new Galaxy and S-Max, whose designs also have changed too little to attract new buyers or to compete against the revolutionary new Renault Espace.
Then their top-selling Fiesta is getting a bit long in the tooth new, already 7 years old, and the Focus will lose some sales to the new Opel/Vauxhall Astra and to a lesser degree the new Renault Megane.
If Ford wants to hold on to its #2 position in Europe, it really needs to launch more appealing products, as that’s exactly what its challengers Renault and Opel/Vauxhall are doing right now.
Dacia_Kwid-sales-disappointment-Europe-2016The French-Romanian brand has renewed or refreshed its entire line-up in recent years and as a result had a booming 2014 followed by an equally impressive first half of 2015 before sales fell flat as the new models started to lose their freshness. With no new products on the horizon, as the Duster Oroch pick-up isn’t likely to come this way, Dacia should really think about getting a version of the Renault Kwid small crossover to Europe, otherwise its sales are destined to fall in 2016. We could also use an all-new Duster, but that’s likely going to take a few years, as the aforementioned Oroch has only just been launched with the current design, and because the crossover was initially designed as a low-cost model for developing countries, which means it’s meant to have a longer life-cycle to spread development costs. Image by
Infiniti Q30 / QX30
Infiniti_Q30-QX30-sales-disappointment-Europe-2016 Infiniti is about to launch two (or is it secretly really just one, you sneaky Infiniti?) important new models, but think they’ve set themselves very high expectations, which I’m not sure they’re going to deliver on.
The all-new Infiniti Q30 hatchback and Infiniti QX30 crossover (or just Q30 with higher ground clearance?) are both based on the platform of the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover and even share some interior parts with the Benz. They are undoubtedly going to be the brand’s best selling vehicles in Europe and should help Infiniti gain a foothold in the hard-fought luxury market, helping it to close in on Lexus.
However, the factory in the UK has a capacity of 60.000 annual units for both models, half of which I expect to be planned for Europe, but I simply don’t see 30.000 sales from a brand with limited showrooms, limited awareness and a current volume of less than a fifth of that figure.
I really want them to succeed, I like Infiniti for being bold and ambitious and I think they’re on the right track with their model policy (except for the QX50…), but I also think they’re expecting too much too soon.
  1. Re Ford: guess your observation is spot-on. Luckily for the brand, the UK is totally into Ford like Germans choose VW by default (20% / 25% marketshare)

    Re Dacia: Stagnating 2015 EU sales were written on the wall. ROW = ok., despite collaps in Russia & Brazil. Kwid India started off in quicksilver fashion. Hopefully the Kwid maintains its momentum

    Re DS: Agree, it’s start is bumpy, On the plus side: PSA will lauch a dozen new models the next 24 month. Among which 2 DS-ses

  2. I agree that Ford is heading for tough times in Europe, due to a more global focus, but in this they’re likely not alone, PSA, Fiat and possibly Opel will all also be buffeted by the realities of economies of scale; PSA is on it’s way to being Chinese-owned and will become increasingly China-oriented.

    Fiat is seeking another partner to become a true global conglomerate, if they find a partner (major Chinese players GAC, BAIC, FAW, ChangAn and Dongfeng are probably Marchionne’s best bet now; though I think he might still have a chance with Hyundai or GM) then they might be able to maintain more of a European focus for a time, otherwise their strength in the Americas will become of ever increasing importance.

    Opel has had a reprieve with Chevy exiting Europe and some reasonable cars actually being built by GM Europe, but the tie up with Buick will also skew Opel increasingly towards China; I think Buick/Opel has substantial room for global growth actually, but the emphasis will be on the Buick side of the house; more chrome, more leather, more leg-room, more tech, less focus on ride and driver engagement.

    Ford will hurt in Europe, but there are possible positives, the next Mondeo being released on time, the Mustang gives the brand some needed sex appeal, the Edge and Vignale models won’t sell that well, but it at least demonstrates Dearborn sees the need for more SUVs and upscale models in Europe. Provided the next Focus and Fiesta maintain their level of superiority over the competition Ford will be OK, but they will loose 2nd spot without better localisation for Europe (particularly for SUVs), upscale models (admittedly an issue that is not only affecting Ford-all old mid-level marques are now squeezed between a cheapening MB/BMW/Audi and rapidly improving Hyundai/Kia/Chinese on their heels). Could Lincoln or a new Ford ‘DS’ (or Ford-ChangAn ‘Dacia’) be the answer? Renault is best placed if any to overtake Ford in Europe.

  3. Best wishes to Left-Lane and all its readers for 2016!

    DS just needs time. First they are focused on China where DS was already introduced in 2014.

    Honda was too late with the HR-V, but perhaps this car can ease the pain. They can only blame themselves, because the Civic Tourer is the most spacious and dynamic looking compact station wagon, but no one buys it probably due to the high pricing of Honda Europe.

    In my opinion, Dacia should introduce a mid-sized sedan/hatchback/stationwagon between the C- and D-segment in Europe. Mainstream cars like the Mondeo, Talisman and Passat are quite large and expensive so there is a gap. By using old Laguna parts combined with a typical Dacia design I think it would be an instant hit. And by doing so Renault, again, would show other companies how to run a budget brand.

    1. Hi Losange,
      best wishes and a great 2016 to you too!
      DS should have gotten the right products the first way around if they really want to build a “premium” image, as there are no second chances. I agree with you that it’ll take 20 years to actually get that kind of brand recognition, as it has taken Audi just as long. But Audi did it with consistent design and consistent quality on which this image could mature. If DS starts off on the wrong foot, no matter how great future products will be, they’ll always be remembered for those initial screw-ups.
      Interesting to hear your strategy for Dacia, Goran mentions it as well below. Considering the worldwide appeal of the Octavia it actually wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

  4. The Honda HR-V is a great success in Europe, but the brand decided to limit the sales of the vehicle in Europe to give priority to others markets.

    Honda has many assets (an excellent reputation, new technologies, …), but it seems to be desinterested in European market…

  5. Twingo is real disappointment…I was really excepting that it’s gonna be a large success.
    What’s the problem ? Price? Cannibalization with Smart Forfour ? Relatively weak french private market ?

    Regarding Honda and Ford – they just seems to play more global game. New Mondeo is new model, but it looks very much old already in comparison with Passat or Talisman. Even Insignia looks fresher…
    I don’t blame Honda so much for kind giving up on Europe, probably there’s much more money in USA right now for them…

    I still expect some plus for Dacia in next year, at least in Q1, because they had some problems and delays with euro6 models…I think they would have to built almost a completely new car to adapt Kwid for Europe. And i don’t think it’s possible to make some profit under Sandero’s price.
    If i would be on Renault/Dacia’s place i would build something like Octavia, but i don’t think something like that is gonna happen in near future. Their production capacities are quite full, and it would probably cannibalize Renault’s already weak share in that class.

    DS is a disaster everywhere. Even in China they have i don’t have many models, but sale is miserable unfortunately. There’s too much re-packing of Citroen in their models…They desperately need something like DS3, DS4 SUV for Europe.

    Infiniti Q30 is a nice car, but i don’t think it can have some major sucess in Europe. Maybe something in UK, but i’m not optimistic. German market accepts only German premium… They have great concepts, but they have too stingy approach(copy A-class/ no dealers) for premium class, and until they produce their concept someone else already produces look-a-like car(Mazda 3)

  6. Great article – thanks for that!

    Just one thing:
    I think the i20 active might only have been presented at Frankfurt Motor Show and is about to launch in Q1 2016?
    (Source: /car-news/motor-shows-frankfurt-motor-show/2016-hyundai-i20-active-debuts-frankfurt-motor-show)

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