September marks the 13th month in a row that the European car market increases year-over-year. At 1.267.068 units, the market has grown 6,1% when compared to September 2013, leading to a year-to-date tally of 9,85 million cars, which is up more than half a million on last year, or 5,6%. In September, the European car dealers sold over 500.000 cars more than they did in August, which is traditionally the slowest month of the year due to the summer holidays.
Also, September marks the twice-yearly license plate change in the UK, which means this month a backlog of registrations is released, and it’s traditionally second to March as the largest month of the year in Europe’s second market, after Germany. In fact, the UK was by far the largest market this month, as more one in every three cars sold in Europe was registered in the UK, compared to 18% or less than one in five over the course of a full year.
As a result, brands that are popular in the United Kingdom have sold exceptionally well in September. For example, the UK market accounted for more than half of all Ford cars sold in Europe, and GM’s UK Vauxhall brand outsold its twin Opel brand in all other European markets. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars, which are usually heavily dependent on their German home market, sold more than one third of their European volume in Great Britain. For Jaguar and Land Rover and Bentley, the dependence on what used to be their home market becomes even more clear in September, with 80%, 72% and 74% of their sales respectively.
After breaking its record market share two months in a row, the Volkswagen Group has returned to a somewhat more modest share of 23,6% of the European car market. It remains however the manufacturer that has added the most volume, increasing more than 17.500 units on September 2013, closely followed by Renault-Nissan, while General Motors loses the most volume again, at almost -7.000, as a slight uptick at Opel/Vauxhall is in no way able to offset the volume lost by pulling Chevrolet from the market.
Nanjing MG, only available in the UK, keeps the title of fastest growing manufacturer and already has more than doubled its previous record year of 2012, with two months to spare. Its newly introduced subcompact MG3 is finally putting the Chinese brand on the radar of British carbuyers. India’s Mahindra & Mahindra is growing fast as well, thanks to their formerly South-Korean SsangYong brand, which almost doubles its sales of their compact SUV Korando and large SUV Rexton.
Surprisingly, Tesla leads the losers-ranking, but that’s because last year the Model S sedan started deliveries late August, and a backlog of orders was fulfilled in the last few months of 2013. Year-to-date, Tesla is still among the fastest growing brands. Interesting to know, of the 615 all-electric Model S sedans registered last month, 167 were bought by 2 Dutch taxi companies who will use the Tesla Model S as the preferred airport taxi at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
Fuji Heavy Industries, better known as Subaru, continues to struggle in Europe, in large contrast to the US, where the brand is breaking its own sales record for the fifth year in a row. I’ve spoken to a few people at Subaru and the All-Wheel Drive and SUV-heavy line-up is more suited to the tastes of US buyers, where these kinds of vehicles are more popular than in Europe, where fuel efficiency if more important. Subaru cars are considered fuel efficient in North America, when compared to large, gas guzzling SUVs and pick-up trucks, but considered inefficient in Europe, when compared to the smaller crossovers and station wagons. Also, they acknowledged that its easier for the still relatively small brand to develop a model or engine technology for the huge and relatively homogenous North American market than for Europe, with its patchwork of government regulations and customer preferences.
Looking at brand level, Volkswagen, Ford and Peugeot are the biggest volume winners in September, while Maserati is still the fastest growing brand thanks to the new generation Quattroporte which doubles its sales, but even more thanks to the addition of the Ghibli. The Italians are followed by Nanjing MG and Infiniti, both more than doubling their September 2013 volume, the latter largely because of the Q50 midsized premium sedan.
It’s interesting to note that Audi was outsold by both of its German premium rivals for the first time since December 2012. Sales at Audi were strong across the board, but the brand didn’t have a single model that has shown such a strong performance as BMW had with its new generation X5 large SUV and especially Mercedes-Benz with its GLA small SUV, which is new this year.
Year-to-date, Skoda holds on to the top spot as the brand that’s adding the most volume, but Renault and Dacia are both closing in. Chevrolet is of course the loser both relative and absolute, as stocks (and therefore sales as well) have dried up in several European countries already. Citroën’s DS brand, when counted as the stand-alone brand it aspires to be, loses more than 19.000 sales as all three of its models start to age. A facelift of the brand’s best selling model, the DS3 subcompact, has already been revealed at the Paris Autoshow last month, but the brand is focusing most of its efforts at breaking through in the world’s largest car market, and the world’s largest premium car market: China. After starting up local production of the DS5 hatchback and the China-only DS5 LS sedan, the French has just introduced the DS6 WR crossover, unfortunately also only in the Chinese market. That means the DS brand seems to have plateaued in Europe for now, until the introduction of new models here as well.
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