The minicar segment in Europe continues its decline in the first quarter of 2019, although it has lost less than the overall market. In the first three months of 2019, European car buyers took delivery of 331.285 minicars, a 3% loss on 2018. The share of the total European car market is slightly up from 8,0% to 8,1% as the overall market showed an even stronger decline. Fiat’s dominance in this segment shrinks to a share of 29,7% with its two models, compared to 30% in Q1 of 2018 but up on the 28,7% for the full year 2018. Surprisingly, the aging Panda gained 12% of sales this year and reclaims the top spot from its equally old sibling 500 which is the biggest loser in the segment top-15. This is a worrying trend for the already struggling Italian brand as the 500 has been the cork that kept Fiat afloat for the past decade and more. We find a surprise in third place as the Toyota Aygo knocks the Volkswagen Up! off the podium for the first time since the launch of the latter in 2012. The Aygo sees stable sales this year with a 1% gain while the Up! is down 11% into fourth place. The Renault Twingo loses a similar percentage and holds on to 5th place by the skin of its teeth as the Kia Picanto is up 10% and just 42 sales behind. The Twingo has just received a minor facelift and should be able to distance the Picanto later this year again. The Hyundai i10 also loses by double digits as a next generation is just around the corner.
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The Aygo’s triplets Peugeot 108 and Citroën C1 are also relatively stable at -5% and -2% which means these triplets maintain a 17,4% share of the segment, ahead of the Renault-Smart tiplets at 13,7% and the VW Group triplets at 11,4% as the Skoda Citigo improves 11% and the Seat Mii even adds 28% to its sales, but the latter has been struggling in recent years and still accounts for just 11% of the sales of the triplets, compared to 27,7% for the Citigo and 61,3% for the Up! At the French-Japanese triplets, sales are distributed more evenly with the Aygo accounting for 45,9%, the 108 for 27,4% and the C1 for the remaining 26,7%.
The Smart Fortwo is stable at +1% and one place to #9 while its sibling Forfour is up 3% but remains a niche player. From 2020 onwards these two models will only be sold as electric cars, so 2019 is likely to be the last year they will sell at their current levels. Smart sold just over 2.000 EV versions of the Fortwo in the first quarter, and 13.500 petrol powered versions. The Opel/Vauxhall Adam and Opel Karl/Vauxhall Viva are in their last year of sales as PSA will withdraw the models because they’re heritage products developed and produced by GM, and they’re trying to cut these ties as quickly as possible and integrate the German brand with their own models. There hasn’t been any confirmation or even rumors that there will be a replacement for the Karl/Viva based on the current 108 and C1, and PSA may even pull out of the segment entirely as it has relegated control of the Czech factory to Toyota. While production of the Adam has already ended, the model shows a nice boost of 34% in Q1 thanks to discounts on the remaining stock models. The Karl/Viva is down 14%.
The Suzuki Ignis loses 10% and its sibling Celerio is the biggest loser of the segment at -36% while the Mitsubishi Space Star is up 4% on what was already a very strong year for the little Japanese hatchback. The electric citycars Peugeot iOn, Citroën C-Zero and Mitsubishi i-MiEV continue their comeback in the late stages of their life cycle, even though they remain marginal sellers with just 727 sales among the three.
There won’t be a lot of news in the minicar segment this year. The i10 and Fiat 500 (finally) will be renewed, and from the latter we expect a station wagon version (called Giardiniera) and the electric version, although we might have to wait for those until next year. By then the Panda will be renewed as well. VW is expected to update the e-Up! when Skoda launches an EV version of the Citigo that promises more range than the current e-Up!.
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