HAPPY NEW YEAR READERS! Hope you all had a good one and did not miss my brand of whining/indecision/rambling. 2013 was certainly not one of the best years of my life, but hopefully 2014 will bring some better luck and lay some foundations for the future!
I had intended this first post to be some sort of comparison between the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML, but having read an interesting article on Autocar’s website I thought I’d add my own opinion on the car sales figures coming out for 2013. Before I start I hasten to add that it seems strange that the majority of marques saw their marketshare fall and very few saw any sort of increase, and also that I am incredibly bias against certain brands for no real reason at all!
Alfa Romeo: DOWN 0.34% to 0.25%
-it’s a shame that Alfa have been unable to find a foothold in the UK. I have absolutely no desire to buy any of their vehicles but think they are an interesting and stylish alternative to the likes of Audi and BMW. Alfa’s problem at the moment is that they have no real ‘premium’ vehicles (ie a sports saloon or SUV), merely rebadged Fiats…Fiats which have their own semi premium aspirations anyway! Hopefully a few new products this year will see them boosted and not bought out by VW.
Aston Martin: DOWN 0.05% to 0.04%
-Aston are starting to feel the pinch of selling several variants of the same vehicle for over a decade…their AMG tie in should give them a great boost but they really need to see their declining marketshare as a warning.
Audi: UP 6.05% to 6.37%
-I tend to favour the underdog so it’s not really surprising that I am not a fan of the current in vogue premium brand. Pioneers of the ‘one size fits all’ styling strategy Audi have a very full line up which can offer something to each segment of the market – this is the reason for it’s success rather than anything else in my opinion. I will concede that technology wise they are excellent and offer an amazing Google Earth based navigation system, but overall most Audi’s from the last few years leave me feeling pretty cold (if not the market in general).
Bentley: DOWN 0.06% to 0.05%
-Not a bad share for a company whose cheapest product costs well over £140k, but Bentley’s sales have dropped quite badly since the financial crisis and have yet to recover. The last couple of years have seen some refreshed models which benefit from Audi’s technology, but have lost a little of the sparkle and classic styling of their predecessors. Having said this if they manage to get the styling of their SUV model right (ie nothing like the horrific concept car) then they will probably have a massive success story in their hands.
BMW: DOWN 6.24% to 5.88%
-Autocar’s journalists don’t appear to see BMW’s relatively big drop as a major issue but I was quite surprised considering the ubiquitous praise they seem to get from the press/strong brand image. Admittedly if you added MINI’s models to the BMW total then they would have beaten Audi by some margin, but even they had a poor year too. I guess relatively ugly/timid styling and a lack of new halo models accounts for BMW’s performance, so it will be interesting to see if the introduction of the new M2/M3/M4 plus the electric i3/i8 will help BMW pull back ahead.
Chevrolet: DOWN 0.66% to 0.53%
-Chevy is officially dead in the water so it’s no surprise to see such poor figures (compared to rivals such as Hyundai and Kia). It’s a real shame that the European market didn’t embrace the American brand but I guess with such strong competitors it was always going to be an uphill battle. Lower prices and bringing in the Camaro earlier as a halo model might have helped a little, but Chevy’s main problem was always it’s cousin Vauxhall/Opel.
Chrysler: DOWN 0.16% to 0.12%
-If there is any company which suffers from an identity crisis it’s Chrysler. In Europe it’s been replaced with the Lancia brand and as such has inherited it’s unusual range of cars in the UK (ie a fugly Ypsilon supermini and Delta family hatch), plus the Grand Voyager MPV and 300 saloon which it has brought from it’s US range. The Italian-American mix might be popular in other industries but in this iteration everything just seems a little muddled and incohesive, and if Alfa gets it’s act together I wouldn’t bet on Chrysler’s featuring in Europe much longer.
Citroen: DOWN 3.6% to 3.53%
-A pretty small decline in sales for a French brand, Citroen might well be on the cusp of a dramatic turnaround in terms of sales. Cars like the DS3 have given the company a bit of gusto and even if the DS4 and DS5 have received less praise there has still been a positive effect on brand image. Parent company PSA faces a problem with both Citroen and Peugeot in terms of positioning but it seems it’s solution is to develop a ‘CACTUS’ range of budget/stylish Citroens to alongside it’s DS line to sandwich Peugeot. Going by pictures of the Cactus they should have another hit on their hands-it’s very attractive!
Dacia: UP 0% to 0.71%
-Apparently Dacia has had the best start ever for a new car company, no doubt helped by attractive base prices and familiar Renault underpinnings. Admittedly their vehicles do have some shortcomings but they do offer an affordable alternative to mainstream models in a refreshingly simple package; the Duster SUV is by far the shining star and demonstrates the strength of the SUV market – I just hope that Renault don’t get too greedy and mess up their secret weapon, especially considering their awful performance.
Ferrari: SAME 0.03%
-Ferrari are very content to maintain the same speed they always have. 700 sales might not sound impressive but they are not chasing the big time like many rivals, and interestingly Lamborghini did not even feature on this list (so probably sold even less). Even the introduction of the ‘entry level’ California model did not see a big shift in sales, but I doubt anyone at Ferrari HQ cares!
Fiat: UP 2.5% to 2.66%
-It’s nice to see a previously battered manufacturer doing well, it’s just a bit of a shame that Fiat’s renaissance relies almost exclusively on the 500 and it’s 500L/Panda siblings. Considering Fiat used to make everything from city cars to large MPV’s and still in fact does offer a decent variety of models its a shame, especially when you think that Alfa were supposed to focus on the larger models!
Ford: UP 13.79% to 13.8%
-A tiny increase is still an increase even when you’re at the top of the market. Ford has been there for 35 years through ups and downs and that seems unlikely to change especially when they have one of their best line ups in a long time. That said I have a smidge more loyalty to Vauxhall and would love GM’s European arm to present Ford with a bit more of a challenge, but I would not bet on it.
Honda: DOWN 2.65% to 2.48%
-According to Autocar Honda’s 2014 saviour will be the 1.6 diesel engine it introduced this year. But whilst that is undoubtedly a brilliant engine with great fuel economy, I feel the upcoming new Jazz and mini-SUV will be the ones to watch – the latter of which could be a massive hit for the conservative brand considering the success of more extreme rivals like the Nissan Juke. A larger 7 seat crossover would be another good addition (maybe replacing the Accord), but I doubt that is on the horizon.
Hyundai: DOWN 3.63% to 3.42%
-Hyundai has done a lot of leg work in recent years to claim it’s impressive marketshare but a strong South Korean won means that prices have risen and as such it’s cars are no longer the value option. Regardless it wants to achieve 5% eventually and that seems pretty likely in a few years time.
Infiniti: DOWN 0.03% to 0.02%
-Embarrassingly for parent company Nissan Infiniti sells less cars in the UK than Ferrari! I guess the reasons for this range from a limited UK dealer network to a small product range, but I think snobbery and fear of new things is probably the real reasons why British buyers haven’t embraced Infiniti. A couple of new vehicles should be gracing showrooms this year and maybe they’ll make a difference, but otherwise I can’t foresee Nissan indulging this venture for much longer considering the trouble it’s partner Renault is in.
Jaguar: UP 0.69% to 0.72%
-The British press loves to rave about the success of JLR yet the Jaguar half of that partnership till seems to be lagging seriously behind it’s sibling. Profits from Land Rover have been reinvested in Jaguar and we are only just starting to see the fruits of this; the F Type sports car is a real looker but the real sales will come from the upcoming new crossover and 3 Series rival!
Jeep: DOWN 0.11% to 0.10%
-I am actually pretty surprised that Jeep’s marketshare is a.) so small and b.) has declined considering the buoyancy of the SUV market. But although the Grand Cherokee is a competitive vehicle the rest of Jeep UK’s product lineup is pretty lacklustre – effectively consisting of the lacklustre Compass and specialist Wrangler. Cars like the new Cherokee and Fiat-based compact crossover will be important in pushing the brand forward but I would expect/hope that they will help Jeep to bounce back somewhat in upcoming years.
Kia: DOWN 3.26% to 3.23%
-Barely a smidge down for Hyundai’s sibling brand, Kia is also after a 5% market share which seems relatively attainable given the next bunch of products that Kia has lined up after this restful year. Maintaining momentum is going to be the same issue with both Korean brands so we shall see how successful it’s new products are.
Land Rover: UP 2.38% to 2.45%
-LR seems to consistently improve each year and with most of it’s products being universally praised it’s not hard to see why. The argument that they have too narrow a product range has been combated with more niche products to compliment it’s bread and butter models, and with upcoming refreshes for 2 of the brand’s biggest selling core models (the Freelander and Discovery) it’s not hard to see Land Rover’s market share continuing to increase for the next few years.
Lexus: DOWN 0.41% to 0.40%
-I am not a big fan of Lexuses (or should that be Lexii) but it is a shame to see their sales quite so low in the UK market. Autocar quite rightly says that it’s a chicken and egg situation for Lexus; success in the European market requires Euro-centric models, which won’t come without significant investment – something hard to imagine when Lexus continues to do so well in the North American market. However the new ‘spindle’ grille and more efficient hybrid tech does mean that upcoming models will at least be more interesting for those who choose one.
Lotus: SAME 0.01%
-Many are surprised Lotus still exists, and based on their poor management in recent years this is a fair statement. Lotus is going to survive by making lightweight sportscars for track days NOT Porsche competitors…lets hope there are still some people who want to buy one!
Maserati: DOWN 0.02% to 0.01%
-Few people at Maserati are going to care about this year’s figures, instead it will be next year which is the crucial role in increasing sales 10 fold over previous years. New models and engines will be totally crucial to this; the new Quattroporte and Ghibli have already been launched and the latter will come with a diesel engine to rival upper versions of the 5 Series and E Class. Moreover the Jeep-based SUV could become a top seller in the vein of the BMW X5/6.
Mazda: UP 1.28% to 1.41%
-In the US Mazda do a roaring trade as being fun to drive and sporty, but the ZOOM ZOOM ethic has gotten slightly lost on it’s way across the Atlantic and instead Mazda’s had become a bit too swoopily styled to gain any real popularity. But a new range of incredibly attractive models and a weak Yen means that Mazda (and other Japanese marques) are beginning to see a minor resurgance. The CX-5 is a real winner and the 6 looks amazing so hopefully the new 3 will add some volume to the numbers.
Mercedes Benz: UP 4.49% to 4.87%
-A nice little increase for Mercedes, which is playing a big game of catch up with it’s German rivals in terms of sales and product range. For what once was the world’s foremost luxury car maker it seems a bit sad that despite products like the new S Class and stylish CLA that buyers still see it as a little staid. Hopefully the new A Class and it’s sister models will help recapture a little lost image and market share.
MG: DOWN 0.04% to 0.02%
-The fact I see more Infiniti than MG should speak volumes for how successful China’s first entry in the UK has been. Evocative brand and decent styling aside there seems little reason why anyone outside Longbridge has bought one so far, but I am sure that even if this venture fails the Chinese will not give up so easily.
MINI: DOWN 2.51% to 2.27%
-Quite a nasty little drop for BMW’s baby but that can be partly attributed to the widely publicised new 3rd generation hatchback. 2014 will see this car launched alongside a new cabriolet and maybe 5 door hatch, plus with a new 5 door Clubman on the horizon it seems unlikely that MINI’s market share will not rebound.
Mitsubishi: UP 0.32% to 0.37%
-Mitsubishi is on dangerous ground on both sides of the Atlantic, but at least it gained something this past year thanks to a couple of new models and favourable exchange rate. Many buyers forget that Mitsubishi exists and so a bit of a marketing budget increase would probably help sales a fair amount.
Nissan: DOWN 5.25% to 5.18%
-It’d be interesting to know just how much of Nissan’s marketshare is made up of the Qashqai and Juke, two crossovers which have made huge inroads for a manufacturer previously associated with the bland Sunny. With the Qashqai getting a major overhaul this year and the Juke getting a facelift I’d expect sales to rebound significantly, plus the attractive new X Trail will probably add a good chunk too.
Peugeot: DOWN 4.87% to 4.7%
-Considering how much poor press Peugeot have gotten recently it’s surprising that their market share fell so little. Cars like the new 208, 2008 and upcoming 308 show that they have listened to critics of ungainly styling and sloppy handling and hopefully they will be able to gain a little traction in the upcoming year.
Porsche: DOWN 0.39% to 0.35%
-After very nearly becoming a Porsche owner I feel a bit of an affiliation to the brand, but regardless I am surprised their marketshare is so low considering how successful they have purportedly been globally. I guess for a sports car manufacturer those figures aren’t bad, but discounting the Cayenne and Panamera I would not think they have done amazingly…the new Macan will certainly add a big chunk of sales though.
Renault: DOWN 1.99% to 1.93%
-Poor Renault must have bottomed out by now, falling from heights of over 7% just 8 years ago! The new Clio and Captur have started to help turn things around, but poor Megane sales and the loss of the Laguna must have really hurt. Even factoring in the Dacia brand sales does not improve things much, but maybe the upcoming launch of Laguna and Espace replacements (both crossovers) might reinvigorate buyer’s interest in the French marque.
Rolls Royce: DOWN 0.02% to 0.01%
-Apparently the change here is single figures in terms of model sales so RR have nothing to worry about, the new Wraith should easily counter that.
SEAT: UP 1.9% to 1.97%
-SEAT have long been the underperformer in the VW Group stable but things seem to be changing a little, in fact I was very surprised to see they have had more sales than Renault! I know it sounds pretty standard by now but the upcoming crossover will likely add a decent amount of sales, as could a new Exeo (if it ever comes).
Skoda: UP 2.62% to 2.88%
-I found it very interesting that Autocar described Skoda as filling the market position that used to belong to Volvo, an analogy which actually makes sense in many reasons thanks to a practical if boring range that is popular with antique dealers! Regardless Skoda seem to be on the up and buyers seem to lap it up.
Smart: DOWN 0.27% to 0.24%
-Far from the MINI competitor it once strived to be, Smart is now a one trick pony/model, but with a new version on the way and maybe a 4 door version all might not be lost.
SsangYong: DOWN 0.04% to 0.03%
-Another company which relies on pretty much one model, SsangYong suffers from being in a very competitive segment (compact SUV) with it’s very average Korando…actually I’ve just realised they have 4 models! Which just goes to show how little market penetration they have managed.
Subaru: SAME 0.1%
-Given Subaru’s competent and mildly interesting range of cars it seems strange their sales are quite so low, especially when their US sales are through the roof! I guess a limited range of diesel engines and lots of competition limit sales, as does a general lack of presence both on the roads and in buyer’s minds!
Suzuki: UP 1.22% to 1.46%
-Autocar note how Suzuki’s situation is the mirror image to Subaru’s in that their US sales have collapses (ended in fact) and European sales are doing pretty well. I guess that is because of their focus on smaller models, but I am sure that it’s Suzuki’s board members who have more sleepless nights at the moment.
Toyota: DOWN 4.14% to 3.96%
-It’s no surprise that Toyota’s sales are down…the dealership near me seems consistently empty for one thing! A strange mix of boring products and strangely exciting ones means that buyers are likely to react in one of two ways to Toyota products (in the UK anyway), and with the volume models being lacklustre it’s not surprising to see sales declining.
Vauxhall: DOWN 11.36% to 11.28%
-Not a massive drop for GM’s main European arm but one that might worry execs in Germany and the US. In my opinion Vauxhall’s product line up is one of it’s most competitive ever, but will admit that competitive doesn’t mean that it betters the competition! The Adam has been a decent seller so far and staples such as the Corsa and Astra continue to do well, but they continue to miss a trick with the Antara which seems positively old hat compared to the new Ford Kuga rival. A new Antara and Corsa next year will be very important to GM’s decision on the future of the Vauxhall/Opel brand.
Volkswagen: DOWN 8.96% to 8.54%
-A considerable drop for a brand which professes to desire market domination of all market sectors, VW might be suffering from a bit of a stagnating product line and internal competition from similar (but usually cheaper) sister brands. As VW focus on US growth it seems they might be missing out on sales in Europe…my opinion anyway.
Volvo: DOWN 1.55% to 1.43%
-Finally we come to Volvo, whose semi-premium safe image has been plodding on with a similar marketshare for the last 20 years or so. It’s recent sale to a Chinese company has shaken things up a little though and it has aggressive plans to expand into new segments, but short term the biggest change is going to come from the upcoming new XC90, a car which has been Volvo’s bread and butter for over 10 years!
2014 is likely to be a quieter year for sales than this past year has been, but if the economy starts to grow faster then who knows…I’ll certainly be buying a new (well used) car at some point, will you?