By on June 18, 2011

We haven’t visited Europe since the UK Royal Wedding, so this weekend we are off to troubled Greece. Car sales are in free fall there since the 2008 financial crisis, and it makes for a fascinating market. Please wear at helmet at all times.

If you have already visited one of the many stunning Greek islands and have already counted all the cars there, that’s ok, there are 154 more countries to visit in my blog, and I can tell you it is άριστη (awesome)…

After a high of 290,000 units in 2000, the Greek car market has been on a long-term downtrend during the last decade, giving us a very volatile models ranking: in the last 10 years. There’s only one car that managed to stay on top of Greece’s best-seller for three consecutive years: The unflappable Toyota Corolla.

After 2000, Greek car sales reached another peak at 288,952 units in 2004 but were down for the most part of the decade, with their fall accelerating in the last couple of years. From 267,061 units in 2008 the market fell by 17 percent to 220,412 units in 2009 and a further 36 percent at 141,404 registrations in 2010.

As far as the last 6 months are concerned, the situation hit rock bottom: sales were down 63 percent year-on-year in November, down 62 percent in December, another 63 percent in January, 48 percent in February, 55 percent in March. It seemed to be on the mend over the last 2 months, with drops of ‘only’ 18 percent in April and 15 percent in May.

However the worsening of the debt crisis in the country over the last couple of weeks will probably plunge the market back into heavy recession: not a happy story this weekend I’m afraid… But the scenery is nice.

In the midst of this chaos, the Greek models ranking has been extremely volatile over the last decade, with only two models managing to hold the year-end pole position more than once: the Toyota Corolla from 2003 to 2005, and the Opel Astra in 2001 and 2008.

Bestsellers in Greece, 2000 to 2010

Year Model Volume Share
2000 Hyundai Accent 14,361 5.0%
2001 Opel Astra 13,334 4.8%
2002 Fiat Punto 10,180 3.8%
2003 Toyota Corolla 9,791 3.8%
2004 Toyota Corolla 9,812 3.4%
2005 Toyota Corolla 9,281 3.5%
2006 Ford Focus 9,444 3.5%
2007 Opel Corsa 9,687 3.5%
2008 Opel Astra 8,386 3.1%
2009 Ford Fiesta 7,534 3.4%
2010 Toyota Yaris 5,776 4.1%

You can see that since 2002 and the Fiat Punto, no model has managed to sell more than 10,000 units in a single year in Greece, and this is not likely to happen for a while given the low level the market has fallen to in recent times.

Up to the 2008 financial crisis, Greek consumers were going against the general European trend, being mostly fond of compact cars, a little bit like Spanish buyers. With the exception of the Fiat Punto in 2002 and Opel Corsa in 2007, every year the best-selling title went to a car belonging to the compact category. The Opel Astra, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, VW Golf and Toyota Auris were regular favorites.

The crisis changed everything. Since 2009, the best-selling car in the country is a small car. Bigger sized-cars have been relegated further down the ranking. The recently relaunched Ford Fiesta flamboyantly took the lead of Greek sales in 2009, with sales up a whopping 82 percent year-on-year

In 2010, the small car trend accelerated with 5 of the 6 best-selling cars in the country being small cars: the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, VW Polo and Fiat Panda.

Greece Top 15 in 2010

Rank Model Volume Share
1 Toyota Yaris 5,776 4.1%
2 Ford Fiesta 5,685 4.0%
3 Opel Corsa 5,405 3.8%
4 VW Polo 5,037 3.6%
5 Opel Astra 4,311 3.0%
6 Fiat Panda 4,217 3.0%
7 Toyota Auris 4,010 2.8%
8 Hyundai i10 3,636 2.6%
9 VW Golf 3,575 2.5%
10 Skoda Octavia 3,574 2.5%
11 Nissan Qashqai 2,961 2.1%
12 Hyundai i20 2,768 2.0%
13 Opel Insignia 2,419 1.7%
14 Toyota Aygo 2,301 1.6%
15 Citroen C3 2,276 1.6%

In 2011 so far, the Opel Corsa is the best-selling model in the country, holding the top spot for 4 months out of 5. The Toyota Yaris comes second. There are 7 small cars in the Year-to-date Top 10:

Greece Top 10, first 5 months of 2011

Rank Model Volume Share
1 Opel Corsa 2,575 5.7%
2 Toyota Yaris 2,213 4.9%
3 VW Polo 1,962 4.3%
4 Ford Fiesta 1,670 3.7%
5 Opel Astra 1,501 3.3%
6 Fiat Panda 1,419 3.1%
7 Toyota Auris 1,352 3.0%
8 Nissan Micra 1,245 2.7%
9 Skoda Octavia 995 2.2%
10 Seat Ibiza 971 2.1%

Now for the Greek market’s very latest results: in May 2011, the Opel Corsa reinforced its leadership, reaching 6.7 percent market share, its highest this year so far.

The other success story of the year so far in Greece is the new generation Nissan Micra, in constant progression over the last few months: #10 in March and #4 in April, it comes in 2nd position in May with 5.5 percent share. Note this strength is mainly fueled by rental car companies. If you have been to any Greek island you will know that a majority of cars in circulation there are rental cars.

Nearly 10 years after its original launch, the Fiat Panda ranks 3rd in May at 4.1 percent.

The VW Polo is 4th at 3.6 percent.

Greece Top 10 best sellers in May 2011

Rank Model Volume Share
1 Opel Corsa 674 6.7%
2 Nissan Micra 556 5.5%
3 Fiat Panda 416 4.1%
4 VW Polo 365 3.6%
5 Opel Astra 344 3.4%
6 Ford Fiesta 308 3.1%
7 Toyota Yaris 304 3.0%
8 Seat Ibiza 245 2.4%
9 Toyota Auris 230 2.3%
10 VW Golf 209 2.1%

Now for that extra bit of trivia that will cause dropped jaws and silverware at those dinners – I know you are waiting with anticipation each week to discover the last golden nugget. Greece is the market in the world where the VW Scirocco is the most successful. Not in volume, but in ranking and market share terms. It ranked 36th in 2009 and 28th in 2010 with 1 percent share and is #35 so far in 2011.

That’s all for today!

If you want to discover in detail the Top 30 best selling models in Greece yearly since 2000 and monthly since October 2010, you just need to click on this link. You can also see the Top 50 best selling models in Greece in May 2011 and year-to-date by clicking here.

All figures were sourced from the SEAA, Association of Motor Vehicle Importers Representatives (www.seaa.gr).

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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