Sales of minicars in Europe are growing again in the first quarter of 2014 after a slight decline in 2013, although the growth is still behind other segments, at 3% vs. 7% for the whole market. Forecasts for this segment are showing a 20% growth in the next three years, thanks to new arrivals like the Renault Twingo, the PSA-Toyota triplets and the Smart Fortwo this year . As a result of this product offensive, 6 out of the top 15 models will be either all-new or just refreshed by the end of 2014, and 13 out of the top 20 will have been renewed or refreshed in the last four years. Another reason for the expected boom in this segment is the rebound of sales in Italy, which is Europe’s largest minicar market. Italy has been in a sales slump in the last couple of years, dipping to levels not seen since the 1960’s.
The Fiat 500 is holding on to the first position it took from the Fiat Panda last year. After 2 months, the Panda was in the lead of the segment, but the 500 had an excellent month of March, outselling its sister by almost 7.000 units. This underscores the popularity of the 500 in the UK, where the model regularly scores a monthly top-10 position. It was the 8th best selling car in the UK in March, which is traditionally by far the biggest selling month of the year, thanks to the changeover to the new license plates.
There is more movement in the ranking below the third places Volkswagen Up!, which grows slightly faster than the segment, as the new generation Hyundai i10 has moved up from 6th place at the full year 2013, passing both the Renault Twingo, and the Smart Fortwo, down from its full-year 4th position to 8th, as both are about to be renewed later this year.
The Lancia Ypsilon is already proving the Italian revival’s influence on the segment: overall sales in Italy have increased for three consecutive months since January 2014, and the Ypsilon, which sells almost 80% of its volume in its home country, is one of the fastest growing cars in the segment.
It’s interesting to see the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii are already down by double digits in 2014, while their sibling VW Up! is outperforming the market, albeit slightly. The Up! is now selling more than double of its two siblings combined. This is especially interesting considering the competing triplets of PSA and Toyota have stayed relatively close to each other during their lifetime. In fact, looking at all-time sales of the Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo, less than 10.000 units separate the best selling triplet and the number three.
Suzuki Alto sales have benefited from a one-time pre-registration in February of over 2.000 unsold cars in The Netherlands, clearing out all cars in stock in preparation for the arrival of its replacement, the Suzuki Celerio. Expect Alto sales to plummet in the next couple of months, as all the pre-registered cars will be dumped onto the market.
2014 and 2015 are shaping up to become an exciting period for the minicar segment in Europe, with lots of model changeovers from popular models and different views on the segment. Analysts expect the new generation to be able to get onto the segment podium next year, almost doubling its 2013 sales to 140.000 units. The Kolin sisters Citroën C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo are expected to rebound to a combined 300.000 units in 2015, the first full year of sales of the new generations.
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