European sales of passenger cars in January increased 6,5% in January 2018 to 1,27 million, which marks the fourth consecutive year of January sales growth, with sales up 40% on the 908.000 sales in January 2013. As sales of car models (hatchbacks, sedans, staton wagons, coupes and convertibles) were stable at +2%, MPVs continued thier sharp decline as crossovers and SUVs are taking over the European streets. MPVs declined 19% to just 7,7% of the market (a new low) while crossovers increased 24% to take 34% of the market, a new high as their share was below 30% for the 2017 full year.
Nearly all major EU car markets started the new year off with growth, except for the United Kingdom (-6,3%), which marked the tenth consecutive month of declines for this market. Spain (+20,3%) and Germany (+11,6%) outpaced the overall market, while Italy (+3,4%) and France (+2,5%) also improved. The fastest growing markets were Romania (+66,4% and Slovakia (+48,8%), followed by Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria, all between +36% and +39%. Besides the UK, other markets in the red were Sweden (-1,3%), Portugal (-2,8%), Cyprus (-3,5%), Ireland (-4,9%) and Norway at -29,5% as a result of changing taxes. In January 2017, the Norwegian market was artificially boosted by a tax reduction which caused deliveries of new cars to be delayed from the final months of 2016, while this year the opposite happened as deliveries of new cars were pulled forward to December 2017 in anticipation of a tax increase in the new year. With Norway being the largest market by volume for electric cars, this had a positive effect on sales of these vehicles last month but January is payback time (Tesla broke all records in December but is among the biggest losers this month).
The biggest winner among manufacturers is Volkswagen Group, helped by the introduction of an expanding line-up of crossovers and SUVs last year, as the company is playing catch up in this fast-growing segment. PSA increased its sales by just over half of VW’s growth, mostly thanks to the Peugeot brand, followed by Renault-Nissan which also adds more than 10.000 sales to its January tally. Suzuki is the fastest growing brand in Europe with a gain of nearly 20%, ahead of Hyundai-Kia as its brands benefit from entering the hot small crossover segment, and Mazda, also growing by double digits.
No manufacturer lost more than 800 sales in January, as Tata Motors is hit the hardest with a loss of 796 sales of its two British brands. Tesla Motors is not far behind, while Mahindra& Mahindra loses fewer than 200 sales of its SSangYong brand. In terms of relative growth, this means Tesla is down by more than half, mostly due to its relatively high share of sales in Norway, where it was the #1 brand in December but is punished for that result this month. Aston Martin is down sharply as well as the DB11 was brand-new last year, and General Motors is down 15,5% with its two remaining low-volume brands Cadillac and Chevrolet sports cars.
When looking at individual brands, Peugeot is the big winner in January and the only brand to add more than 10.000 sales to its tally. Unsurprisingly, the French brand has made a big move in crossovers last year with the 3008 and 5008. The other two big winners of the month have done the same, as Skoda has launched the Kodiaq and Karoq while VW has renewed the Tiguan and introduced the T-Roc last year. In terms of relative growth, Dodge is the fastest growing brand with sales up more than eight-fold due to a combination of exceptionally low sales in 2017 and healthy volume in 2018. In fact, its 18 deliveries in January last year were the lowest in a decade while the brand’s January figure is the second-highest in two years, after last December. Keep in mind Dodge has no official representation in Europe and is only sold through grey market importers. Sister brand Jeep is officially sold in Europe but also grows by almost 70% thanks to the new Compass, while Lada also shows impressive growth at almost +50% as the brand expands its presence in Western Europe.
No brand loses more than 2.800 sales but FCA is hurt the worst with Fiat and Lancia-Chrysler both among the three brands that lose the most volume in January, joined only by Jaguar. In relative terms, Lotus is the biggest loser as the British sports car brand is known for its jo-joing sales from month to month, and Infinit also loses more than half of its sales as its strategy to conquer the European luxury market has failed miserably.
Behind Volkswagen, Ford is back in 2nd place for the first time since last March, as Renault traditionally has a slow start to the year. In fact, Peugeot manages to outsell its French rival for the first time since January 2014 to grab 3rd place thanks to a 14,5% increase in sales, compared to a 7% gain for Renault. Mercedes-Benz is the best selling luxury brand ahead of Audi in places 6 and 7 respectively, while Toyota climbs to 8th place. The biggest winner in the top-10 is Skoda with 18,5% more deliveries in January 2018. Fiat on the other hand is down 4 places compared to January 2017 and is knocked out of the top-10 with sales down 4,3%. Hyundai outsells Nissan for the fourth month in a row, and Kia is back ahead of Dacia after two months lagging behind the Romanian brand. Jeep jumps two spots, moving past Honda and Mitsubishi, while Porsche moves ahead of Lancia and Jaguar. DS is now outsold by Lexus and the French luxury challenger continues to struggle as it hasn’t yet been able to benefit from customer deliveries of the DS7 Crossback.
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