The European car market started the second half of 2016 on a negative note when a 34-month winning streak came to an abrupt end in July, but we’re back into positive territory in August. This is traditionally the weakest month of the year in volume terms because of the summer holidays, but sales increased 8,2% on the year before, to 842.696 vehicles. Among the major markets, the Southern European countries led the way again, with Italy (+20,1%) and Spain (+14,6%) showing double digit growth, compared to single digits for Germany (+8,3%), France (+6,7%) and the UK (+3,3%), the latter despite fears that Brexit may cause sales to fall in the second half of the year. The year-to-date figure is pulled up by the strong result in August, we’re now at +7,4% to just over 10 million sales, with only Switzerland and The Netherlands in the red.
Volkswagen Group took a big hit in July but recovers in August, adding the most volume of any manufacturer, followed by Renault-Nissan and Daimler AG, while Geely (Volvo) loses the most volume during the changeover from the successful V70 to the new S90/V90. Mitsubishi Motors, Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) and Aston Martin are the only other manufacturers to lose volume in August.At brand level, Mercedes-Benz is the big volume winner this month, adding more units than Volkswagen, Ford and Opel/Vauxhall combined, and placing itself in 4th place in the brands ranking ahead of Renault, traditionally weak in August. This is the first time ever that Mercedes-Benz outsells Renault in Europe and the first time the brand takes a top-4 spot in the brands ranking, so by all means an impressive performance and yet another indicator that mainstream brands are in trouble as luxury and low-cost brands gain share. This is further underscored by the fact that Dacia and Fiat also show impressive volume gains in August, while Infiniti, Lotus and Maserati are the fastest growing brands this month.
On the losing side we find Volvo, Mitsubishi and DS as the big volume losers, while Dodge, Chevrolet and yet again DS lose the most in relative terms. Keep in mind Dodge isn’t even officially sold in Europe and its grey-market importers concentrate mostly on Ram pick-up trucks, which are commercial vehicles and therefore not included in these figures.
Not a lot of changes in the year-to-date tables, with Renault-Nissan, FCA and Daimler AG still the big winners in volume terms and so are their brands Renault, Fiat and Mercedes-Benz, while Mitsubishi Motors, Tesla Motors and Aston Martin as the only manufacturers to lose volume. As we’ve grown used to, Lotus swings from big loser to big winner from one month to the other and its August score was so impressive that it turns from one of the biggest relative losers in the first 7 months into positive territory just one month later. Its horrible score in July propelled the VW brand to the biggest volume loser of the first 7 months, but it recovers in August to cut its loss almost in half. As a result, Mitsubishi and Nissan have now lost more volume in 2016 after both these brands showed impressive gains last year.
As mentioned above, the big event in the brands ranking is the first-ever #4 spot for Mercedes-Benz, as Renault is kicked down to fifth place, its lowest ranking since May 2013 when it was outsold by Audi. Remember the French brand had two blockbuster months in May and June, when it was firmly in 2nd place? Well, don’t read too much in this fifth place, as it’s only 5.000 units behind the #2 of this month, Ford. That’s how close it was in August. BMW is not far behind its rival Audi in 7th and 6th place respectively, as for the second month running both outsell Peugeot, another victim of the slow summer period in especially Southern Europe. This also naturally affects Fiat, kicked out of the top-10 by Toyota.
For only the third time ever, after August 2013 and August 2014, Dacia outsells Nissan as the Japanese brand is down into #16, a record low ranking which it also hit exactly 3 years ago. Volvo is down into #20, its lowest ranking in six years, and Jeep outsells Land Rover for only the third time in the past 18 months (it also managed this in February and August 2015) and possibly forever.
Despite being down in 5th place this month, Renault holds on to its #2 spot year-to-date, but will lose that position next month as Ford will outsell its French rival by more than double the current gap of 10.000 vehicles in September. This is a result of the twice-annual license plate change in the UK, which makes March and September the biggest two months of the year in that market. This naturally benefits brands that are relatively strong across the Channel, which includes Ford, Vauxhall, Nissan and to a lesser degree the German luxury brands. What will be interesting to see if Renault can fight back to the 2nd place by year-end. It will be tight, as Ford outsold its French rival by 20.000 units in the last 4 months of 2015, and the current gap is just half of that. On the other hand, Renault has a lot more momentum this year and has a much fresher line-up than its American rival.
Thanks to its impressive August performance, Mercedes-Benz closes in on Audi for the title of best selling luxury brand in Europe, and that race will be tight as well, as Mercedes outsold Audi by 10.000 units in the last 4 months of 2015 and the current gap is just 12.500 units.
The only ranking change in August is Mini overtaking Land Rover for 21st place in the year-to-date brands ranking.
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