March sees supercharged European sales

Is the success of new European models a preview of things to come for our local market?

New car sales in Europe continue to bloom, with deliveries of 1.94 million vehicles in March representing growth of 11.2 per cent over the same month in 2016.

Italy, Spain and Germany all recorded double-digit gains.

For the quarter, European new car sales this year were 8.4 per cent better than the first three months of 2016.

While vehicle manufacturers were popping the champagne corks, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) burst the bubble a little by pointing-out the shift of Easter holidays from March to April this year created more selling days in the month.

Lada, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo surge

Lada was the month’s biggest winner with sales leaping by 73.2 per cent. But the Russian budget brand was coming from the astonishingly low base of 159 sales in March 2016.

More impressively, Jaguar’s growth rate wasn’t far behind. Riding on the back of the phenomenally successful F-Pace SUV, Jaguar’s 15,008 European sales in March meant an improvement of 71.0 per cent over March 2016.

Jaguar’s surge contributed to 26.0 per cent growth for the Jaguar Land Rover group, even though the far larger Land Rover brand only grew by 11.8 per cent.

Good news too for Italy in March with the all-new Giulia propelling growth for Alfa Romeo of 45.7 per cent.

Suzuki sales were 23.8 per cent up on March 2016 and Porsche returned a 22.4 per cent increase.

Other strong players included Toyota, which grew 20 per cent, Volvo (up 19.7 per cent), Nissan (up 17.7 per cent), Fiat (up 17.1 per cent), Ford (up 16.5 per cent), Renault (up 16.2 per cent), the Volkswagen Group’s former problem child, Seat (up 16.7 per cent) and Mercedes-Benz (up 14.7 per cent).

There were losers in March, and nobody lost more than the PSA Group’s premium brand DS, which tumbled 32.6 per cent to a disappointing total of just 6283 sales for the month.

In this boom month, any carmaker in Europe with less than 11.2 per cent growth lost market share. That collection included the PSA Group, busy swallowing Opel and growing only 6.7 per cent, Opel itself (which grew just 3.4 per cent), Volkswagen, which only grew 3.5 per cent, and Hyundai, which grew 9.3 per cent.

Volkswagen plateaus

Volkswagen still leads Europe as both a brand and a manufacturing group, despite sluggish growth from all bar Porsche and its niche brands. Which might explain why - ahead of the sales figures – Volkswagen released an earlier-than-usual first-quarter profit announcement.

The Volkswagen Group’s market share dropped from 22.4 per cent in March 2016 to 21.4 per cent this year, though it retained a 22.7-per cent share across the first quarter.

Of the premium brands, besides Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, Audi grew by just 3.8 per cent to lose market share, as did BMW, which only grew 7.6 per cent.

PSA saw its year-to-date share drop to 9.9 per cent (down from 10.3 in 2016) and Opel’s dropped from 6.9 to 6.5 per cent.