In the first quarter of 2015, the year-over-year growth of the car market accelerated every month, but that streak ended in April, when car sales increased “just” 6,5% to 1,2 million units, taking the year-to-date improvement to 7,85% and 4.822.477 units. Still, it’s the 20th straight month of improvement, although the climb is much less steep than in the US, where the car market has already recovered to pre-crisis levels. All major markets contributed to the expansion, with huge differences between markets, as Italy grew explosively at +24,2% but France up a mere 2,3%.
Renault-Nissan continues its stellar performance, adding the most volume in April and also passing Volkswagen Group to become the biggest gaining manufacturer year-to-date. FCA also improved greatly, thanks to the expansion of its home market Italy, but also thanks to overall excellent results for Fiat (thanks to the 500X) and especially Jeep, while the Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands continued to lose volume.
The fastest growing manufacturers are the ones with a low volume base, like DRB-Hicom thanks to the resurrection of Lotus, followed by Tesla Motors and surprisingly Lada, which has recently resumed sales in the Czech Republic and Hungary.
The only two manufacturers to lose volume are Toyota (-2,4%) and Honda, down a whopping 24,6% as the brands appears to have lost interest in the European car market, keeping customers waiting for the new generation Jazz for almost two years after it was launched in other markets. But the Jazz isn’t the brand’s only model to lose sales, as all Honda models are down.
Brands-wise, Renault adds the most volume, followed by VW and Fiat, while Jeep, Lotus and Lamborghini are the fastest growing brands. Renault is closing in on Ford to become Europe’s #2 brand, with less than 1.000 units between them this month. It won’t be a surprise to see Chevrolet still carrying the red flag as the biggest loser, and Honda and DS are no newcomers to the right side of the table either. However, looking at relative improvement/loss, Chevrolet isn’t the worst off as sales of Great Wall cars in Bulgaria appear to have come to a virtual halt as well.
Year-to-date, Volkswagen Group is no longer the biggest gaining manufacturer, as Renault-Nissan has overtaken them thanks to a blockbuster month of April. Daimler AG holds on to the third place, but FCA and BMW AG are not far behind. Lotus is pushing DRB-Hicom sales, as Proton hasn’t sold a single unit in 2015. The growth curve of Mitsubishi Motors is slowing down, while SAIC MG actually adds to its relative gain.
General Motors is still suffering from the withdrawal of Chevrolet, which is only partially offset by an improvement at Opel, which is kicked back down into fourth place in the brand ranking by Renault, after it traditionally enjoyed a great month of March thanks to the strong UK market.
Nissan is also back behind Toyota after its similar great performance in March, but Nissan is creeping ever-so-close to its main Japanese rival and still has a significant lead year-to-date. It might reach its goal to become Europe’s best selling Japanese car maker if this trend continues. In another Japanese battle, Mitsubishi has a shot at finishing the year ahead of Honda for the first time ever. The only time it came close was in 2000 when less than 1.500 units separated the two brands.
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