Minicars outperformed the overall European car market in the first quarter of 2021, with sales up 8% in a stable market. And this is despite several automakers giving up or planning to give up on the unprofitable class. This segment now makes up 7.2% of the total European car market, up from 6.7% in Q1 of last year. However, their share is expected to return to a decline in coming years, as manufacturers are pulling out of this segment or switching their models to EV-only. This is a result of increasing costs to comply with stricter safety and especially emissions standards, which makes minicars nearly unprofitable, especially considering that for most models from European brands this is their only market.
Traditional minicar leader Fiat consolidates its leadership of the class, as both of its models, which have been the top-2 best sellers since 2008, right after the Panda’s relaunch in 2007. Thanks to the addition of Mild-hybrid technology and the EV version of the 500, the Italian brand improves its share of the segment to 37.7%, up from 34.9% in Q1 of last year. The Toyota Aygo maintains its podium place, despite a 9% loss in sales. It still holds a comfortable lead over the Renault Twingo and Volkswagen Up!, despite double digit gains for those models. The Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 are respectively up and down by 6%, while the Suzuki Ignis is the big winner in the class, up 45%. It too benefits from a Mild-hybrid version and an unfavorable comparison with last year, when it was down 28% as the brand was holding off sales until the more fuel efficient versions became available later in the year. Still, it’s the best start of a year for the Japanese minicar ever, and it jumps into 8th place. The Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108 are losing share as the brands are preparing to leave the minicar segment later this year. The Smart Fortwo almost triples its sales, although that too is more due to an artificial low base in Q1 of 2020. However, this is nonetheless an impressive start of the year considering the Fortwo is now EV-only.
The Mitsubishi Space Star is down 43% as the brand announced its withdrawal from the European market, a decision that it later overturned, but the Space Star is unlikely to be continued much longer anyway. The next four models are all EVs: a relatively bad performance for the Citigo and a relative strong showing for the Mii bring them very close to each other in terms of sales, but that seems a logical result now that both have been turned to EV-only models with a restricted supply. They life span is expected to be short, though. The Smart Forfour also has a strong showing, for the same reason as its two-seater sibling, while the Dacia Spring is still in ramp-up mode, only available to car-sharing programmes before launching to private buyers in the second half of the year. Europe’s cheapest EV is imported from China and intends to shake up the segment.
Mitsubishi Space Star / Mirage
Car sales statistics are from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
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