The minicar segment in Europe grows 5% in the first half of 2016, which is lower than the overall market at +8,8%. The two Italian segment leaders benefit from the impressive rebound of the Italian car market, the fastest growing major market in the EU. The Fiat Panda is more dependent on its home market than its sibling Fiat 500, and therefore is able to hold on to the segment lead, which it already claimed in the first quarter. The help Fiat hold a 28,5% share of the segment. The Volkswagen Up! remains a distant third with less than half the volume of the leader with sales down 5%, while the Renault Twingo reclaims its fourth place after having dropped to sixth in the first quarter. The rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Twingo lost a lot of ground in Q1 and has recovered only half of that in Q2, but should be able to hold on to its position for the rest of the year, with not a lot of new or updated models arriving in showrooms the coming months. The Toyota Aygo stays well clear of its PSA siblings Peugeot 108 and Citroën C1, while the Smart Fortwo is the biggest winner in the top-10 with an increase of 26%. It even outsold the 108 in Q2 and looks set to leapfrog the French minicar to steal 8th place. That’s still a long way from the fifth place it held in 2013 and before, but bear in mind there were fewer rivals back then, and the Forfour surely cannibalizes some Fortwo sales as well.
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The Opel Karl/Vauxhall Viva is the biggest winner of the segment, but that’s not surprising considering it was launched in Q1 last year. In fact, it has dropped to 11th place for the first half, after grabbing the #8 spot in Q1. It was even outsold by its sibling Opel/Vauxhall Adam and by the Kia Picanto in Q2, so it better pick up the pace again. The Ford Ka is the biggest loser in the top-20, losing almost a third of its volume, as Ford has decided to abandon the segment to focus its attention to more profitable types of vehicles. The Ka nameplate will survive in the Ka Plus, a budget subcompact car which will have the exterior dimensions of the larger class, but prices competitive to the minicars. Whether that’s a successful strategy remains to be seen, because for now the premium/trendy minicars appear to be on the winning hand against the no-frills models, proven by the low rankings of the Mitsubishi Space Star and Suzuki Celerio. The latter appears to be doing well with a 25% increase, but if you look further down the ranking you’ll notice that its predecessor Alto was also still on sale last year, and combined sales of the two models are actually down.
Looking at multibrand cooperations in this class, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Fiat-platform is by far the biggest seller with the two Fiats, the Lancia Ypsilon and the Ford Ka together rack up almost 270.000 sales, followed by the PSA-Toyota Kolin triplets with 118.000 sales and the Renault-Daimler triplets with 105.000 sales. That leaves the VW Group Bratislava triplets far behind with just 83.000 sales, because two out of three are underperforming. The Hyundai-Kia duo is not even that far behind, with 72.000 sales combined. These five collaborations account for about 87% of all minicar sales in Europe, making it very hard for others to reach enough scale for profitability. Fortunately for General Motors, it benefits from the additional volume of the Chevrolet Spark in the US, and so does Mitsubishi at a smaller scale with the Space Star (called Mirage in North America), and Suzuki has a large market for the Celerio in India.
In Q2 we’ve welcomed the Citroën E-Mehari to the segment, even though it’s technically not even a minicar, but a quadricycle like the Renault Twizy. Production is limited to 1.000 units in order to be exempted from crash-test and safety regulations, and as a result the E-Mehari will only be sold in France. Later this year, the Suzuki Ignis will be introduced, marking a return of the nameplate which was sold in Europe between 2000 and 2008.
Also check out the minicar segment in the US where the Chevrolet Spark (the US version of the Karl/Viva) climbs to second place behind the Mini Cooper and looks set to grab the lead in Q3.
Opel Karl / Vauxhall Viva
Mitsubishi Space Star
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