Fleet News

European sales take an upward turn

Sales of new cars in Western Europe reversed two months of falls in August.

Registrations rose 6.2% compared to August 2004, to 846,579 units, according to independent data from JATO Dynamics. Year-to-Date (YTD) sales, at just over 10 million, are very slightly lower (by 7,099 units or 0.07%) than in 2004.

Nearly every market in Western Europe grew in August. Sales were especially strong in Iceland, Denmark and Ireland. YTD registrations declined in The Netherlands, Belgium and Greece, although August sales rose in those markets. The UK fell 2.3% in August and 5.7% YTD.

Volkswagen was the leading brand in August, with 98,753 units registered (up 23.2%). Next were Renault (73,434 units) and Opel/Vauxhall (66,934 units). YTD, Renault leads from VW and Opel/Vauxhall.

Among the major brands experiencing strong growth in August sales were BMW (up 22.9%), Mercedes-Benz (up 17.9%) and Toyota (up 14.2%). Kia is the fastest-growing volume brand with YTD registrations up 60.2%.

Once again the Volkswagen Golf led the market, with sales up 30.4% to 36,866 units in August. Second-place Opel/Vauxhall Astra was up 12.2% to 23,728 units and Ford's Focus, in third, was up 29.7% to 23,363 units. YTD, the Golf (335,242 units) leads from the Peugeot 206 (287,228 units) and Ford Focus (281,801 units).

All but three segments performed better in August 2005 than in August 2004 - the exceptions being executive (down 1.6%), MPV (down 5.9%) and sports (down 7.7%). The year-to-date picture is reversed, however, with only three segments showing sales increases. Sales of lower medium cars continue to run around 7.5% above last year's level. Mini MPV sales are up 3.3% and SUVs up 11%.

August's growth of 14.1% in mini segment sales was fuelled by the arrival of the new Peugeot 107, Toyota Aygo and Citroën C1 as well as better sales of key existing products. The Fiat Panda (up 26% in August) continued to lead the segment from the Kia Picanto (up 162% YTD) and Renault Twingo.

Registrations of small segment cars rose 1.59% in August after falling 4.1% fall in July. The YTD total of 2,929,499 is 4.7% down on last year. Peugeot's 206 led in August, from the facelifted Volkswagen Polo (up 11.3%) and Renault Clio. YTD, the 206 leads from the Ford Fiesta (up 1.1%) and Clio.

Once again, new and recent introductions led to strong growth at the volume end of the lower medium segment in August. The sub-segment rose 14.1% on significant sales increases by the leader, Volkwagen’s Golf, second and third placed Opel/Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus and newcomer the Citroën's C4, which was up 150% in August and up 121% YTD compared to its predecessor, the Xsara. Premium lower medium sales rose 41.2% in August, led by the Audi A3, BMW 1-series and Alfa-Romeo 147.

There were mixed fortunes in the upper medium segment. The volume side of the segment continued its product-led resurgence during August, with total volumes up 9.1%. Volkswagen's new Passat (up 45.5%) led from the Peugeot 407 and Skoda Octavia (up 11.4%). Sales of premium models again declined, although more slowly (down 2.2% in August). BMW's new 3-series (up 10.2%) led the segment in August from the Audi A4 (up 6%) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Executive segment registrations were slightly down in August, by 1.62%. Mercedes-Benz E-Class led the segment from the Audi A6 (up 2.7%) and BMW 5-series in August while the BMW leads from the A6 and E-class on YTD sales.

Luxury car sales, which are 15.3% down on 2004 YTD, received a slight boost in August with a small rise of 0.5%. August sales were led by the Mercedes-Benz S-class from the BMW 7-series and Audi A8. For YTD, the order is BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The Renault Scénic/Grand Scénic maintained its lead of the buoyant Mini-MPV segment, which rose 2.8% in August and 3.3% YTD. New models helped this growth, including the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Volkswagen Golf Plus and Honda FR-V. The Volkswagen Touran (up 9.7%) and Citroën Xsara Picasso took second and third places in August.

Growth still eludes the full-size MPV segment, which saw August sales tumble 5.9% to bring the total YTD decline to 14%. Renault's Espace/Grand Espace led the segment in August, from the Volkswagen Sharan and new Mazda5.

The rise in demand for SUVs led to a sales rise of 16.1% in August and 11% for YTD. The Toyota RAV4 led the segment in August from the BMW X3 (up 70.8%) and Hyundai Tucson (up 104%). Sports segment sales declined by 7.7% in August. Although this was a smaller decline than July, it left YTD sales down 2.4%. The Mercedes-Benz CLK led from the SLK and the new Opel/Vauxhall Tigra in August.

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