European car sales in December 2016 showed the 10th gain of the year at +2,6%. A total of 1.180.704 new passenger cars were registered last month, just a handful more than the month before. This also makes this the highest December volume on record, indicating the days of crisis are now well and truly behind us. Almost all major markets showed improving sales, with the Southern European leading the way once again: Italy (+13,1%), Spain (+9,3%), France (+5,8%) and Germany (+3.7%) outperformed the market, while the UK (‐1.1%) dropped slightly. Four other countries lost volume in December, and did so with double digits: tiny Cyprus lost 14,7%, even tinier Iceland lost 16,2%, but both were below 1.000 sales. More worryingly were the losses for Greece (-30,1%) and The Netherlands (-48,1%), but the latter was a result of a change in the taxation of company cars by January 1st, 2017. From now on, only EVs will receive a discount on the taxation, and Plug-in hybrids and other fuel efficient cars will no longer be elligible. This also resulted in a 30% share of plug-in cars in the Dutch December sales figures!
The December rankings are surprisingly similar to what they’ve been over the course of the year, with no big surprises in the last month of the year. Renault Nissan Group and Volkswagen Group add the most volume, followed by Daimler, while DRB Hicom with its Lotus brand, Aston Martin and SAIC-MG are the fastest growing manufacturers, helped by their low volumes to begin with. On the negative side, we find PSA, Ford Motor Company and Geely with its Volvo brand. The former two are suffering from an aging line-up, which even the succesful introductions of the new C3 and 3008 can’t balance at PSA, while Ford is eagerly awaiting the new generation Fiesta which won’t arrive for another few months. Volvo is hit by the changeover from V70/XC70 to S90/V90 and should be able to recover once deliveries of the new 90-series reach full stride. PSA and Geely are also in the top-3 of biggest relative losers, but are trumped by Mitsubishi which loses more than a quarter of its volume on last December.
At brand level Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat are again the big gainers, while Peugeot, Ford and Volvo are the big volume losers, for reasons explained above. Peugeot looks especially weak because December 2015 was a monster month for the 308 (27.000 sales), also because of regulation changes in the Dutch market. Among the relative winners and losers, Maserati, Infiniti and Lamborghini get noticed in a positive way, while Dodge, DS, Chevrolet and Cadillac are less favorable. Chevrolet is still delivering the last remaining stock models, while the other 2 American brands don’t even have official import channels and rely on grey market imports. French boutique brand DS desparately needs new (and hot) products.
In the brand ranking, Volkswagen stays on top with stable sales, while Renault is slowly but steadily creeping closer thanks to a 15,4% gain on last year, adding 1,1 percentage point of market share. Ford and Opel/Vauxhall remain in 3rd and 4th place, followed by Mercedes-Benz as the top selling luxury brand for the fourth time in the last five months. That puts Peugeot in 7th place, sandwiched between BMW and Audi, while Fiat and Skoda also show nice improvements, the latter kicking Toyota out of the top-10. Kia moves ahead of Seat, while both improve to threaten struggling Volvo. Outside of the top-20, Suzuki is enjoying some success with its freshened line-up, while Mitsubishi is leapfrogged by both Land Rover and Honda. Smart shows nice improvement, growing by a quarter, and Alfa Romeo grows by almost half thanks to the new Giulia but Porsche adds even more, growing two thirds on last year, helped by strong demand for its SUVs. Jaguar jumps ahead of Lancia, DS and Lexus compared to last December, also helped by SUV sales. At the bottom of the ranking, Bugatti has registered perhaps its first Chiron.
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