ANALYSIS: Forget Volkswagen, Mazda is the big news in Germany
CX-3 went on sale across Europe from June, with almost 10,000 units sold in the region during Q3
It has no rich parent; no manufacturing plant in Europe; sells no hybrids, EVs or PHEVs. Plus, a new roadster has just been added to the model range of this non-premium brand. A recipe for disaster, then. Not at all: Mazda is outselling Toyota, Peugeot and Fiat in Germany. And, it's closing on Nissan.
Let's look at the numbers as compiled by the KBA, the market rising by 4% YoY in September:
1. Volkswagen: 57,042 registrations, +4%
2. Mercedes: 22,772, +1%
3. BMW: 21,933, +2%
4. Audi: 21,904, +2%
5. Opel: 20,337, +3%
6. Ford: 18,192, +10%
7. Skoda: 16,750, +3%
8. Hyundai: 12,744, +25%
9. SEAT: 8,235, +8%
10. Nissan: 6,996, +17%
The astonishing fact that you can't see from these numbers alone is this: just 157 more cars sold by Mazda would have bumped Nissan out of the top ten. Much of the reason why the brand from Hiroshima retailed 6,840 cars in September, a YoY rise of 27%, was the surging popularity of the CX-3. It wasn't as successful as Mazda Deutschland's best seller, the CX-5 (1,677 registrations, -14%) or Mazda2 (1,458, +126%) or even the Mazda3 (1,259, -19%) but with 1,096 registrations, the little crossover was more successful than the Nissan Juke (966, +3%), Kia Sportage (964, -13% but on run-out) and Renault Captur (963, +34%). So an import is outselling these built-in-Europe B-crossovers/SUVs.
As you'd expect, Germany's top selling B-crossover is the Opel Mokka (2,601 sold in September, +11%) but the segment's number two is a model that's largely forgotten about in most other countries. Give up? It's the Skoda Yeti. Despite being six years old, it managed 34th position and 1,998 sales (+1%), just behind the Mercedes A-Class (2,041, -31%). This being Germany, the Audi Q3 also performed well, taking 41st place with 1,767 registrations (+25%).
The gap between Mazda (a reminder: 6,840) and some bigger name brands was larger than many might expect. Renault was in 12th position with 6,521 (-18%), then came Toyota (5,852, -13%) which, almost nine years on from the launch of the first Qashqai still has no equivalent in its European line-up. In 14th place it's Peugeot (5,167, +11%), followed by Fiat (5,066, -1%), Kia (4,899, +8%), Citroen (3,967, -12%), Mini (3,493, +11%), Volvo (3,465, +23%) - the aged XC60 is up 50% to 1,359 and the XC90 outsold the Cayenne surging by 628% to 437 cars versus 429 units of the Porsche (+223%) - and rounding out the top 20 is Dacia. The Romanian brand is crashing in many European markets due mainly to a lack of fresh product, its September sales total of 2,554 cars being a 23% YoY drop.
The big questions then: can Mazda unseat Nissan in the October market, and just how close to the big boys is it in terms of year-to-date sales? The answers are: certainly, and with 44,701 registrations over the first nine months, it's only 3,768 units behind Toyota and if fresh products are what will decide it, a wise man wouldn't be backing Japan's largest company. The ongoing strength of the 500 and 500X should keep Fiat (55,090 YtD) ahead of Mazda even if the latter continues to outsell FCA's number one European brand in the remaining three months. Kia and Peugeot each lag Mazda by some 3,000 registrations and while there are no new Peugeots about to hit the market, a fresh Sportage could see Kia get close to or possibly pull ahead of Mazda by year end. And Nissan? With a sales tally of 53,321, it's behind Fiat but more than 8,600 cars ahead of Mazda.
The most important fact to come out of watching the month-by-month goings on in the German passenger car market is this: if the cars are well engineered, well priced, have a good reputation for reliability (Mazda just won two German J.D. Power awards) and look right, then a foreign brand can succeed. Underlining that, even Jaguar has at last reversed its worrying decline from what were already low sales numbers. Registrations shot up by 61% in September to 509 units (3,960 YtD), the XE not only accounting for three fifths of the month's total but also outperforming the Range Rover Evoque (305, -15%).
It can be a strange market, Germany - last month the Jaguar F-TYPE (63 registrations) was more popular than the Toyota Prius (just 60), and viewed through the eyes of anyone who considers the US to be the world standard, it can be positively baffling: the Morgan 4/4 (7 sold) was rushing out of showrooms compared to the snail's pace of the Kia Optima (5 in Germany, 11,719 in the US).
October promises to be a month when all manner of upsets could begin happening, should a significant number of German consumers decide to snub the various brands of the Volkswagen Group. The company's lead brand is in no danger of losing its number one status but could there be a worse time for the new A4 sedan and Avant to be hitting the market? In theory, Opel could snatch fourth place from Audi but is that really likely?
The brand that perhaps stands to benefit even more than Mazda from the apparent shifts taking place, is Hyundai. Its sales were up by a quarter last month thanks to the new Tucson. That development, combined with the image damage to the VW brand and the fact that buyers must wait until next Spring for deliveries of the Tiguan 2 to commence, can only be good news for Hyundai. And as Mazda's success with its suddenly popular B-crossover demonstrates, German customers will go with a new brand should there be no VW to consider in a hot segment. Could the thought even be entertained that the Volkswagen Group's dominance of its home market suddenly looks a little less certain as 2016 approaches?