European auto sales in February 2014 are up 3,6% when compared to February 2013, slowing down the year to date increase to 5,7% vs. the first two months of last year. The Volkswagen Golf is not surprisingly still the leader by far, actually increasing its lead over the number two, the Renault Clio, passing the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo to move up from fourth in January.
Notice the return of the Fiat Panda to the Europe top-10 at 8th place, leapfrogging its sister Fiat 500, which has outsold it for the past 8 months. It is also the first month of a year-over-year increase for the Panda, after a 14-month streak of decreases, since December 2012. In fact, the 2.800 unit lead over the 500 in February puts the Panda in the lead of the minicar segment Year To Date.
Another minicar with an excellent month is the Suzuki Alto, up 90% on last February. It’s noteworthy to mention this increase is fully carried by The Netherlands, where the Alto shot up from 562 sales and 15th place in February 2013 to first place and 2.279 sales this year. As a result, over 60% of all Alto’s sold in Europe this month were registered in The Netherlands. However, since this freak event is due to pre-registration of unsold cars, expect the Alto to tumble in the Dutch and also in the European ranking in the next months, until the arrival of its replacement, the Celerio.
A couple of trends which I have discussed earlier continue this month, most notably the Skoda Rapid vs. Seat Toledo battle, in which the Czech sibling appears to go for the full knock-out, almost tripling its sales on last year, while the Seat remains stable. As a result, the Rapid is outselling its Spanish copycat with an almost 7 to 1 ratio in February. The model is not even relying on its home market very strongly, as just 16% of the Rapids sold in Europe are registered in the Czech Republic. Apparently, buyers in other markets prefer the Skoda over the Seat as well.
And another trend is the demise of the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, which are unable to follow in the footsteps of their “leader”, the Volkswagen Up! and even cause the triplets together to continue losing market share in the minicar segment. And with a wave of new competitors to the A-segment this year, the VW-group triplets are facing strong headwinds in 2014.
For the first time ever, the Mini Countryman and Paceman pair has outsold the rest of the Mini line-up this January and February, showing the success of the crossover models, but of course one of the main reasons is the model change-over of the Mini hatchback later this year.
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