European new car sales have increased 2,8% to 1.126.319 units in April, slowing down the year-to-date increase of 6,6% to 4.471.024 units for the first four months of 2014. April is the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases, but things are not all as positive as they may look: last month was still the third worst April in at least a decade.
The Volkswagen Group had yet another very successful month in the compact segment, with the Golf not only the best selling car overall as usual, but also adding more units on last year’s score than any other model in the top 15, both in April and year-to-date. But besides the Golf, the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia both score their best April ever in the history of their respective nameplates, and both claim yet another European top-10 spot.
As a result, the VW Group has three cars in the compact segment top four, with only the Ford Focus in-between. As recently as 2006, the Opel Vauxhall Astra outsold the VW Golf in that segment, but the Golf is kicking its rival’s nuts this year with a 3:1 ratio and even the compact crossover VW Tiguan is outselling the Astra this month for the second time this year, and ever. The Astra has been around since 2009, but the Tiguan is even two years older, with just a few updates in that period.
April was also a great month for the Nissan Qashqai, as the new generation has hit showrooms all across Europe. The Qashqai is up 22,4% on last year and is set to come back into positive year-to-date territory by next month. Nissan has a great month overall, with also big gains for the Micra subcompact and the Note small MPV. The latter has now outsold the Ford B-Max, last year’s number two of the segment, for the fifth month in a row. Its new generation has helped the Note undoubtedly, but the B-Max, which has been on the market for only two years, has seen its sales decline for the sixth consecutive month. Adding insult to injury, after outselling the Fiat 500L four times in the first six months of 2013, the 500L outsold the B-Max by an incredible 2:1 ratio in April.
The Peugeot 308 compact lodges another strong month thanks to the model change and the addition of the station wagon version of the new model. Sales have increased more than 50% on April 2013, but were actually up on April 2012 as well, this is the first time this year that the 308 has a better month than in 2012. Its stable mate the Citroën C3 subcompact is unable to accomplish a similar performance, but still manages an impressive 62% year-on-year increase, helping the Citroën brand to a third month of improved sales this year.
It is becoming obvious that the success of their small crossovers is cannibalizing sales of the other two French subcompact cars. While the Renault Clio is down less than 1% on April last year, when the Captur had just been introduced, the Peugeot 208 is suffering harder as its sales decline by 18,5% due to the success of its crossover sibling 2008.
But those are not the only crossovers and SUVs to have an excellent April. The Mitsubishi Outlander has its best month of 2014, thanks to deliveries of the Plug-in Hybrid version. The Outlander has become the brand’s best selling model, at over 40% of its sales. In April, the first models of the new Jeep Cherokee have been shipped to the dealers, so keep your eye on this car in the next couple of months. Despite its somewhat controversial styling, it has been a runaway success in the United States and Canada, helping the Jeep brand reach record sales in those regions.
In the premium part of the crossover/SUV market, the Mercedes-Benz GLA already almost breaks through the 4.000 units mark in its second full month of sales, while the Porsche Macan sells an impressive 1.741 units for its first month of customer deliveries. And one size bigger, the BMW X5 celebrates its sixth consecutive month of year-over-year gains, thanks to its model change. The X5 almost triples its April 2013 figure, and is up more than double year-to-date.
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