The growth in the minicar segment in Europe has slowed in the fourth quarter, as the segment ends 2015 with 1.332.146 sales, an increase of 8% after growing 10% in each of the first three quarters. The Fiat 500 manages to hold on to its title for the third year in a row despite stable sales as the 500 suffered slightly from a slow fourth quarter as the factory was still gearing up for the model’s first facelift in 7 years time. For Fiat it was the 12th consecutive year on top of the minicar segment since the Panda took over from the Renault Twingo in 2004. Fiat Panda sales were up 13% in 2015 as it closed the gap to its sibling the “Nuova Cinquecento” to less than 9.000 sales.
The Volkswagen Up! is in third place again, despite losing 16% of volume. In Q4 the little VW sold only 40 more units than the Twingo, which closes in for the full year with sales up 17%. The Toyota Aygo does even better at +25% thanks to the new generation. This helps the Aygo move past the Hyundai i10 into 5th place. Its siblings Peugeot 108 and Citroën C1 are a still behind the i10 in #7 and #8, which puts them above the Lancia Ypsilon, down 5% to a still respectable 60.000 sales.
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off
Smart Fortwo sales are up 10% thanks to a 7th place in Q4 and the two-seater moves into the segment top-10, kicking out the Opel/Vauxhall Adam, even though it’s surprisingly stable at +2% for a model that I had expected to lose its “hip-factor” pretty quickly. Similarly, the Kia Picanto is also very stable at +5% for a model in the 5th year of its life cycle with only a minor facelift. Smart has another ace up its sleeve with almost 40.000 sales of the Forfour. That means combined Smart sales would put the Fortwo and Forfour in fourth place of the segment, just ahead of the Twingo with which they share their platform.
The Mitsubishi Space Star adds a third to its 2014 volume to sell almost 30.000 vehicles in 2015 thanks to an excellent first half of the year with over 17.000 sales. It barely manages to fend off the Opel Karl and Vauxhall Viva duo for the full year score, but the GM twins outsold the Japanese minicar by a better than 2:1 ratio in Q4. Expect to find the twins knocking on the segment top-10 door for 2016.
Suzuki is losing its minicar-touch with the spacious but not very frivolous Celerio when buyers are prepared to spend lavishly on hip and trendy cars, hence the success of the 500, Adam and the Smarts. Combined sales of the all-new Celerio and its predecessor Alto are up only 12%, and if you factor in the outgoing Splash Suzuki even loses 17,5% of its minicar volume in 2015.
The segment is expected to shrink in 2016 after a new-product boom in recent years. This year, only the Brazilian-made Ford Ka is expected to reach European shores, but I don’t expect a lot of fireworks from that car. For one, it’s similar to the Ford EcoSport: a car designed for emerging markets that Ford thinks European buyers are waiting for. Let me tell you: they’re not. Volkswagen tried it ten years ago with the Fox and failed miserably. Buyers looking for a no-frills car with a spacious but grey interior will find their way to a Suzuki showroom for a Celerio, all others will want something a bit less depressing and with some kind of smartphone connectivity.
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