European car buyers registered just over 952.000 new cars in February, an increase of 7,8% on February of 2014, and the highest growth rate in 11 months and a healthy sign the recovery of the European auto market is well and truly under way. This brings the 2015 year-to-date tally to over 1,97 million cars, up 5,5% on the first two months of last year.
Biggest winners in February were Volkswagen Group, Renault-Nissan and BMW AG, adding a combined 50.000 extra units compared to February of 2014. Volkswagen, Renault and Nissan added the most volume as single brands.
On the downside, General Motors still leads the way due to the withdrawal of Chevrolet, followed by Suzuki, which is eagerly awaiting the new Vitara while the new Celerio is slow to pick up steam, and Tata, whose three brands all lost volume on last year. At brand level, DS also lost a lot of ground in a drought of fresh product.
Naturally, the smaller manufacturers show the largest relative growth and contraction, with DRB-Hicom the fastest growing thanks to Lotus up 72,2%, because the Proton brand remains dead in Europe. Mitsubishi and SAIC MG follow suit with gains of 44,2% and 34% respectively, while Aston Martin and Tesla Motors show double digit losses, and General Motors sinks 9,5%. Tesla’s registrations remain very volatile: after growing 58,1% in January, the American all-electric brand loses 18% in February, while March is expected to be another blockbuster month again, as deliveries of the four-wheel-drive Model S P85D shoot the brand back up in especially Norway.
The fastest growing single brand in February is Jeep, like in January, at +188,9%, followed by Lamborghini at +86,7% and India’s Mahindra at +79,2%, although the latter two are still not in triple-digit territory. Behind the traditional biggest loser Chevrolet, China’s Great Wall Motors and Tata of India take the biggest hits as each loses more than half of its volume in February.
Year to date, Renault-Nissan still outgrows the Volkswagen Group, while Daimler AG adds more than 14.000 units of which almost a third comes from Smart. Unsurprisingly, Chevrolet causes General Motors to lose the most volume, followed by PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Suzuki.
In relative terms, Mitsubishi is still the fastest growing manufacturer ahead of DRB-Hicom and Mahindra & Mahindra, the latter thanks to impressive gains at SsangYong. Despite reducing Subaru’s loss in February, Fuji Heavy Industries is still among the fastest shrinking manufacturers in Europe, in contrast to its continued record-setting pace in the US. Underscoring the difficulties the smaller Japanese manufacturers face in Europe, Honda is also down in double digits year-to-date. Or perhaps I should say: “the difficulties smaller Japanese manufacturers who don’t have a Plug-In Hybrid SUV”?
Because Mitsubishi’s other models all seem to benefit from the Outlander-effect, meaning the extra attention the Outlander PHEV brings the brand and the extra customers it draws to the showrooms. Except for the niche i-MiEV electric car and the discontinued Colt, all Mitsubishi models show sales increases in February, even the “oldtimers” like the Pajero, Lancer and ASX.
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