Passenger car sales in Europe rose for the third consecutive year in 2016, and its 6,2% increase put the total for the year just above 15 million units for the first time since pre-crisis 2007. Growth for the past 3 years has totaled 22,2%, or 2,73 million additional sales. That means the market has now officially (and finally) recovered, 8 years after the first big hit that shook up the industry. However, there’s still room to grow, because even though the US market appears to be at its peak, the European market (EU + EFTA) still has 7,7% to go before hitting its all-time record of 16,16 million sales it hit in 2004. But first, let’s get back to 2016 and see how individual countries have performed: The growth was largely sustained across the region but weighted towards the South, which had the most to catch up to begin with. Italy (+15,8%) and Spain (+10,9%) showed the biggest gains of the major markets, followed by France (+5,1%), Germany (+4,5%) and the UK (+2,3%). Among smaller markets, Iceland (+31,7%), Hungary (+25,1%) and tiny Cyprus (+22,2%) were the most dynamic, while only 2 out of the 30 markets lost volume: The Netherlands at -14,7% and Switzerland at -2%.
Winners and losers of 2016
Among manufacturers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to our regular readers that Renault-Nissan added the most volume, followed by FCA Fiat-Chrysler and Daimler AG. On the other end of the scale, Mitsubishi Motors lost the most volume of all manufacturers at. Through November, only 2 other manufacturers lost sales, but in the last month of the year PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Geely with its Volvo brand dipped in the red as well. In terms of relative growth, AvtoVAZ with its Lada brand, SAIC MG and Mahindra & Mahindra with its SsangYong brand were the fastest growing manufacturers, while Mitsubishi Motors, Aston Martin and Fuji Heavy Industries with its Subaru brand were the fastest shrinking manufacturers. Aston Martin will recover in 2017 thanks to the DB11, and Mitsubishi has a couple of new (plug-in) crossovers in the pipeline, but one needs to wonder if Subaru has a sustainable business plan in Europe at less than 40.000 annual sales.
Looking at brand level Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat are the big winners, the first two adding over 100.000 sales each. Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and DS are the big losers, the first two losing over 10.000 sales each. Infiniti is the fastest growing brand in Europe, but the Japanese brand had aimed much higher with the launch of its UK-built compact cars Q30 and QX30, so I’m doubtful the champagne has been uncorked there. Jaguar and Bentley are also among the fastest growing brands, both helped by the introduction of their first-ever SUV. Tata appears to have withdrawn sales in Europe, just like Chevrolet has done, and Bugatti sales, which are not even counted in the dozens, fluctuated because of the changeover from the Veyron to the all-new Chiron.
Other notable movements among manufacturers are BMW Group closing in on Ford Motor Company for 4th place, FCA moving ahead of General Motors into 6th place and Daimler AG passing Hyundai-Kia, which has enjoyed steady growth instead of extreme fluctuations. Despite double digit growth, Mazda has been outsold by Tata Motors’ Jaguar-Land Rover, the fastest growing manufacturer in the top-15. Honda has moved past Mitsubishi Motors to enter that top-15 with an impressive 21,5% growth, while surging SsangYong (under ownership of India’s Mahindra & Mahindra) has distanced Tesla Motors which was virtually stable.
In the brand ranking, Volkswagen lost 0,7 percentage points of market share but remains the distant leader, while Renault gains 0,4 percentage points to top 1 million sales for the first time since 2007 and move into 2nd place ahead of Ford. GM’s Opel/Vauxhall is also closing in on its American rival, while Peugeot barely holds on to its 5th place. Thanks to double digit growth (the fastest growing brand in the top-20), Mercedes-Benz is the new luxury leader for the first time since 2008. It beats Audi by a fair margin, and BMW is close behind in third place. For 2017, BMW has a new 5-Series while Audi has the still very fresh A4, Q2 and Q5 and will update its A6 halfway through the year, so expect the former to remain in third place for yet another year. Fiat and Skoda complete the top-10 while Toyota distances Nissan to remain the best selling Asian brand in Europe. Further down the ranking we see Jaguar closing in on Porsche wile leapfrogging Lancia, Alfa Romeo and DS. The latter drops 4 places and is now out of the top-30 thanks to a 12,9% loss in 2016.
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