ANALYSIS: Europe's car market in 2014, and 2015
Macan much of the reason why Porsche's European sales rose 19.1% to 60,805 (OEM's own numbers)
The market might have been up by 5.4% in 2014 but there were some surprising brands on the list of those which saw their sales effectively contracting. How will they fare in 2015?
As noted in this news report, ACEA's definition of Europe's passenger vehicle market enjoyed its first year-on-year expansion since 2007, with 12,550,771 cars registered.
The Volkswagen Group naturally remained firmly in first place but sales of VW (+4.3%) and Audi (+4.5%), while improved on 2013, were lower than the overall market's YoY gain. The recently released Passat should remedy that for Volkswagen this year, while Audi will have a new A4 with which to take on the 3 Series and C-Class.
Second placed PSA Peugeot Citroen had a modest recovery in 2014 but its 3.7% combined rise wasn't strong enough to keep pace with the market's gain. The group could well be one of the big casualties of 2015 as there are no major vehicles scheduled for launch this year. The much-hyped 'Back In The Race' cost slashing programme might be necessary but can it work if the core European business goes into steep decline for want of fresh products? That's exactly what happened when the former Fiat SpA tried the same approach. In fact, with FCA Europe, it's still happening.
Renault Group enjoyed a strong 2014 thanks to both Renault (+9.1) and Dacia (+23.3%) having launched multiple new models. The total for the year, 1,237,606, wasn't that far behind PSA's 1,390,900. With a new Scenic and Koleos due in the summer, to be followed by the next Laguna and Megane, the gap to PSA should narrow.
Ford of Europe could have a tricky 2015, with the Fiesta now getting old and having last month lost its traditional number one place in Britain to the Corsa, while the brand itself dropped to second place behind Vauxhall. The Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy will be some help to Ford but none of these models is likely to add the volume that the brand needs to close in on Renault, while the Mustang and Edge are hardly likely to sell in anything more than small numbers. In 2014, the Ford and Renault-Dacia brand totals were 947,951 versus 1,237,606. At least Ford should be able to cross the million-unit mark in 2015. A facelift for the Focus should help matters from the fourth quarter.
GM Europe had a mixed 2014. Vauxhall is riding high, and Opel too enjoyed a return to form with the now locally assembled Mokka taking much of the credit for that. Combined sales were up 7.3% to 885,372, which compares to 874,504 for Renault (Dacia's total was 363,102). Chevrolet registrations plummeted 73%, as expected, to just 38,560 and in December, only 458 cars were sold. If the plan had been for Opel and Vauxhall to entice potential Chevy buyers into their own showrooms, it doesn't seem to have worked as GM's overall market share declined by 4.6% in 2014. The Karl/Viva, plus the re-engineered Corsa and a new Astra hatchback from Q4 should see Opel/Vauxhall having a very good 2015 indeed.
BMW Group maintained its lead over next placed FCA in 2014, with equivalent totals being 833,212 (+4.9%) versus 767,856 (+3.5%). That's not the whole story, though, as Mini sales rocketed by 44% in December alone, which was off a low base. The addition of the five-door range and the continued roll out of yet more three-door variants are behind the surge. A new and larger Clubman later in 2015 will help things further, while BMW has a facelifted 3 Series on the way to join the recently announced 1 Series makeover, plus the 7 Series and X7 also due this year.
There are big shifts taking place within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' European division. The main one is the rise of Jeep thanks mainly to the addition of the made-in-Italy Renegade. Sales were so strong in 2014 (+69.6% to 41,378) that Jeep (+189.7% to 6,603) easily outsold both Lancia/Chrysler (-17.2% to 4,742) and Alfa Romeo (-1.7% to 4,450) in December. Fiat saw a small (+2.2%) gain in 2014, ending the year with a registrations total of 586,271. There isn't a lot of new product due in 2015, but the 500X should give Fiat sales a handy lift, as should a restyled 500 and perhaps a facelift for the Panda.
Daimler's 3.7% gain for the year wasn't enough to keep up with the market, but smart was to blame for that. The small car brand saw its sales plunge earlier in the year but due to the arrival of the forfour and the new fortwo at year-end, brand sales were up by 63.1% to 6,673 in December. Mercedes-Benz just managed to outpace the market with a YoY gain of 5.7%, its total of 652,373 placing it well behind Audi (726,059). It didn't lag BMW (676,410) too badly though. All manner of new models are coming this year, including the GLC-Class, GLE Coupe, plus facelifts and new names for the M-Class, GL-Class and SLK-Class, and then a facelifted A-Class.
Toyota Motor Europe was another OEM which underperformed in 2014 but in contrast to how the story used to go, last year it was Lexus shooting up the sales charts (+30.3%, 31,079) while Toyota more or less stalled (+1.1%, 527,380).
As pointed out in an earlier piece, the Japanese luxury brand has pulled clear of its nearest numerical rival, Jaguar, which ended the year with a 2,463 cars deficit. Let’s see how things might have changed by year-end once the XE saloon has been on sale for a few months, and then joined by the XF replacement. But in December, Lexus sold 3,118 cars (+57.2%), while Jaguar registrations numbered 2,111 units (+8.8%).
The vehicle that’s mainly responsible for the Lexus surge, the NX, gains an additional variant from February. That’s when the hybrid is to be joined by the 200t, powered by a turbocharged petrol engine. There will be a new RX at April’s New York auto show so that one will be in Europe from the second half of 2015.
There’s a new Avensis due to appear at the Geneva show but it’s hard to imagine that this car will make much of a difference to TME’s numbers. Especially as it uses the same platform as the current one. It should gain BMW four-cylinder diesel engines, following an agreement signed a year or two back.
The Auris is due for a facelift in the fourth quarter but other than this, plus a new Hilux, there’s almost no other fresh product for TME this year. For that reason, Nissan Europe must be getting ever more excited about its chances of eventually leapfrogging TME. Last year, the relevant numbers were 558,459 and 477,183, so Nissan has a long way to go. In December, its sales totalled 37,576 (+28.8%) while those for Toyota were 41,679 (+2.3%).
TME should indeed be concerned as Nissan Europe’s market share rose to 3.7% in 2014 (it was 3.4% in 2013) while the Toyota brand fell to 4.1% from 4.2%. Where oh where is a B-crossover or a C-crossover, TME’s dealers must be getting tired of asking?
It’s strange to report that both Hyundai (+0.5%, 424,467) and Kia (+4.2%, 353,719) saw their sales effectively decline last year but that’s exactly what happened. Dacia and Skoda and Renault seem to have done a better job of picking up Chevrolet customers but it’s also the lack of proper rivals for the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka that’s causing the decline.
It can’t be overlooked that Hyundai-Kia, even with their sales dipping, still outsold FCA: 778,186 versus 767,856, but in 2013, the Koreans were some 20,000 units ahead, so let’s see what happens in 2015. Hyundai has the new i20 just now reaching showrooms and facelifts for the i30 and i40 soon to be joining it, while Kia has a facelifted cee’d due soon, with the updated Rio and Venga having just gone on sale. The most important new model of 2015 will be the KX3, Kia’s entry in the B-SUV segment.
Of the remaining brands, Volvo’s market share rose to 2.0% from 1.9% last year thanks to multiple facelifted models, with sales rising above the quarter million mark to 254,610 from 230,063 in the prior year. XC90 series production starts at the end of this month, and then the next new models will be the S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country.
Mazda has managed to shame a couple of brands which manufacture cars in Europe, by shifting up a place in 2014, its market share rising to 1.3% from 1.2%. Sales totalled 175,028 (+18.7%) and the new Mazda2 and CX-3 will surely get the brand from Hiroshima above 200,000 registrations by year-end.
Suzuki is also on 1.3%, having similarly risen from 1.2% but its YoY rise of 6.9% to 162,828 was no match for Mazda’s gain. The new, Hungarian-built Vitara should see things improve dramatically over the course of 2015. We should also not forget the Celerio, plus of course a forthcoming C-segment hatchback, which is expected to revive the Liana model name and will be based upon the Ciaz/Alivio sedan.
Has Honda been forgotten? No it hasn’t and it’s not the next brand either, which just shows how the mighty are fallen. JLR overtook Honda in 2014, the English brands' combined registrations totalling 144,442 (+6.0%) compared to Honda's 133,268 (-4.9%). Land Rover will have the Discovery Sport in showrooms from the spring, to be followed by a mid-life update for the Evoque and the new cabriolet body style, and Jaguar’s additional models for 2015 were noted earlier. The XJ will be facelifted too.
Honda at least managed to keep Mitsubishi behind it and should be able to keep things that way in 2015, despite MME seeing its sales shoot up by 25.0% (to 102,364). Apart from a new L200, no new Mitsubishis are due this year. By contrast, Honda has a lot of product coming soon, including the facelifted Civic and CR-V, the new Jazz, the HR-V, plus the NSX and Civic Type R should give the brand some much needed good publicity.
So then, predictions for 2015? The Volkswagen Group will probably increase its market share from the existing 25.5% (2013: 25.1%), at the expense of PSA and possibly Ford, Opel-Vauxhall looks like it will also do well thanks to a lot of fresh products on the way, likewise Renault Group. Nissan will probably close the gap to Toyota thanks to the addition of the Pulsar, and JLR seems set to overtake Suzuki and Mazda, despite both Japanese brands looking likely to have big sales rises themselves. Might this also be the year that ACEA starts setting out individual numbers for Porsche, Maserati, SsangYong, Subaru, Tesla, Infiniti, MG, Bentley and Rolls-Royce, instead of condemning each to the status of 'other'?