In 2012, Volkswagen Group made a splash in the European minicar segment, introducing a triplet of cars under the VW, Skoda and Seat brands, that were to take the successful Toyota-PSA triplets C1, 107 and Aygo head on to become the best (and best-selling) minicars of the continent. The cars have been well-received by the press and the public, storming to a (combined) first spot of the segment in their first year on the market. They are selling at a rate their predecessors, VW Lupo and Seat Arosa, and more recently VW Fox, have never been able to reach.
From my article on Jan-Sept sales of the European minicar segment, you might think sales of these Volkswagen Group triplets keep on rising: VW Up!: +21%, Skoda Citigo: +128%, Seat Mii: +91%. However, that’s compared to their introduction year 2012 when they were in startup mode. Looking more closely at sales of the past four months, a totally different picture is painted. A rather worrying one actually.
In July, sales of the three minicars were stable, with Citigo making up for sales lost by Up! and Mii. The whole segment was up 2,4%
In August, all three VW minicars lost volume, down almost -15% combined, in a segment down -9,6%.
In September the clouds grew darker, Mii was the only of the three to add volume on last year, but together they were down -7,7%. The whole segment, including the VW triplets, was actually up 2,3% and the Kolin-triplets from Toyota-PSA outsold their Slovakia-born German-Czech-Spanish rivals.
But October was the worst month for the Bratislava-built threesome, all three were down, a combined -12,8% in a stable segment.
So for the past three months combined, the triplets are down -11,4% while the segment as a whole is down just -1,3%. This is a not very hopeful trend for a set of cars in only their second year on the market and a projected life span of another 5 year at least.
Minicar sales usually very stable
Especially when taking into consideration that the minicar segment is quite a stable segment, these cars are usually less vulnerable to the phenomenon of sales peaking after launch, but quickly fading when a newer competitor is brought to market. The leader of the segment, the Fiat 500 is already 6 years old, without any major exterior updates.
The Kolin-triplets Citroen C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo have been around since 2005 with just two minor facelifts, but their sales kept increasing four full years in a row after their introduction. They are due to be replaced, but would still be in the segment’s number 2 spot combined (behind the VW triplets combined). In fact, they have even gained ground on their much younger competitors: last year, the Czech-built French-Japanese siblings trailed the Volkswagen Group triplets by 5.766 units from July through October, while this year the difference is narrowed to 4.195 units.
In that light, the quick decline of the Up!, Citigo and Mii is bad news for Volkswagen Group, which will undoubtedly be worried that the oncoming new generation C1, 107 and Aygo will take back the crown of the segment in 2014 already. Because that seems very likely to happen. Also Hyundai has just launched a new generation i10, with a less retirement-home design, which could also steal away some sales of the triplets. Their peak was short-lived, let’s hope they don’t have a long and steep way down ahead of them.
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