In 2015 the European car market totalled 14.2m new registrations, an increase of 9.3% over 2014 full year results; the highest since 2009. The market benefited from the last two months of double-digit growth with December setting the highest positive monthly change of the last three years at 1.16m units, according to the number crunchers at JATO Dynamics.
The last quarter volume increase was the highest of the year, 10.2% more than in Q4 2014, or 3.42m cars sold in total. The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, SAAR, was 16.52m units.
In 2015, nearly all of the markets analysed (27 out of 29) posted a positive registrations increase with only Estonia and Luxembourg falling behind the levels experienced in 2014. The biggest increases came in Italy and Spain which together added almost 400,000 units to the year’s total. Spain posted its highest total since 2008 and Italy recorded the best result since 2011. In both cases the totals are still far from the 1.64m units registered in Spain in 2005 and the 2.51m seen in Italy in 2007. Germany topped the overall market with 3.2m new cars, up by 5.6%, and reached its highest total since 2009. The UK came second with an all-time record of 2.63m units (+6.3%), and French registrations went up by 6.8% to 1.92m units, the highest since 2011.
Another good annual performance came from Ireland, where registrations were up by 29.7% despite a fall in December. Portugal and the Czech Republic were also up above the 20% mark, and they were followed by 10 other markets who posted double-digit growth. These included the Netherlands and Poland which were up 14.8% and 16.1% respectively, following an outstanding performance during December compared to the previous year.
“Last year was very positive for the industry in terms of growth. Most of the car markets that suffered the most during the European crisis posted the highest annual increases. Even in the case of Greece, its registrations growth rate in 2015 outperformed those seen in the UK and Germany,” said Felipe Munoz, marketing analyst at JATO.
Volkswagen led the European market with 1.72m units and 12.11% market share but its sales only increased by 7% compared to 2014. However, despite recent challenges in reality it only lost 0.28 percentage points of market share. Ford was second, exceeding the million units mark but also lost market share [but did, finally, return to operating profit – ed]. Renault outsold Opel/Vauxhall to take third place in the rankings during 2015 thanks to double-digit growth. The GM brands and Peugeot complete the top five. The rest of the top 10 was made up of the three German premium brands, with Audi leading the annual total but posting the lowest growth among them. Fiat and Skoda completed the top 10 – the Italian brand moving further ahead of Skoda.
Outside the top 10 Nissan’s strong performance allowed it to reduce its gap on Toyota, still the largest Japanese make in Europe. However, Toyota’s registrations grew more than Nissan’s during December. Volvo managed to increase its market share up to 2%, and Mazda and MINI posted registrations growth of more than 20%.
One of the biggest winners last year was Jeep, thanks to the subcompact SUV Renegade, which increased its market share from 0.31% in 2014 to 0.62% last year. Overall, it was the 25th best-selling brand in Europe with almost 88,000 units. The new Fortwo and Forfour models allowed Smart to increase its registrations by 72% compared with 2014, gaining 0.25 percentage points of market share.
“With tiny exceptions, most of the brands competing in Europe sold more cars than the previous year. However, not all of them benefited the same from the rising demand. The brands that enlarged their ranges introducing new models and SUVs were the big winners in 2015,” noted Munoz.
Once again the Volkswagen Golf was Europe’s best-selling car with more than 530,000 units registered in 2015. It was ahead of the second placed Ford Fiesta by more than 200,000 units. The Golf was the best-selling car in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland and kept its position despite its slower annual growth, the third lowest in the top 10. Renault’s Clio and Volkswagen’s Polo finished in third and fourth place respectively. The Nissan Qashqai was once again the best-selling SUV/crossover in Europe and was one of only two models to post double-digit growth in the top 10. The other was Volkswagen’s Passat, the big winner in terms of volume growth with 87,500 units more than the previous year.
Outside the top 10, the Peugeot 308, Renault Captur, Mercedes C-Class, Fiat Panda, Opel/Vauxhall Mokka and Skoda Fabia also posted double-digit growth. When looking at the top 20 best performing models, six belonged to the VW Group while Renault-Nissan and GM models occupied three positions each, Ford, FCA and PSA each had two of their models in the top 20, and Daimler and Toyota had one model each.
“The all-new cars and SUVs clearly grabbed the attention of customers last year. Europe continues to move from the traditional segments to the sport utility vehicles and crossovers,” concluded Munoz.