The fleet market continued to do well in April. Its share of total sales was 56.5% for the month and 50.6% YTD. Both these figures are higher than in 2007, the year before the financial crash, so the fleet market is continuing to be the motor of the car market.
In terms of manufacturers, the main trends of recent months have intensified. Vauxhall is continuing to increase fleet sales, which is good, but its fleet proportion is starting to look very high.
So far this year, 66.1% of Vauxhall sales have come from the fleet market, which is the highest in the industry by some margin (Volvo is second-highest with 60.9%). Vauxhall is already identified with fleet cars in the mind of some retail buyers, and figures like this are not going to make Vauxhall appear more retail-oriented.
Arch rival Ford, 54.3% of whose sales are fleet, continued to lose ground. However, the true position will only become clear when the new Focus is fully available, traditionally Ford’s highest-selling fleet model.
Behind the two traditional leaders, come the German brands. VW, Audi and BMW take the next three places in the sales chart, and all three have a higher fleet sales proportion than does Ford.
Nevertheless they all seem able to keep their premium (or in VW’s case semi-premium) positioning in the public mind. Rightly or wrongly, the public see some models as being ones handed out by fleet managers and others (mainly German ones) as being selected by user-choosers.
There has been much talk of premium German brands buying market share in the UK, but their parent companies consistently report some of the highest profit margins in the industry, so they are not exactly giving the cars away.
Among other European nationalities, there is a very mixed picture. All three French brands are down again this year, although Citroen has suffered much less than the other two. Both Peugeot and Renault made a lot of noise last year about how they were on the path to recovery, but there is not much evidence at the moment.
Renault, in particular seems to be on a see-saw: penetration plunged in 2008, the strategy was changed in 2009 with strong sales growth in 2010, and now sales are sliding again.
However, the French look quite healthy next to the Italians. Fiat was outsold last month by Alfa Romeo, which is a real “man bites dog” story and the Italian giant seems to be fading away to near-invisibility. Over-dependence on fleet is not good, but neither is a mainstream manufacturer selling under 20% of its cars into the fleet market.
Author: Jay Nagley