Over the past few weeks, we flew over Romania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Caledonia. And what could be the complete opposite of a paradisiac island with white sandy beaches currently right in the middle of Summer? Try one with only a couple of hours of daylight, right in the middle of a traditionally very intense Winter: Iceland.
For those of you dear readers for which geography was not the forte at school (yes you in the back with the red shirt, I’m talking to you), Iceland is a lovely island up north of the Atlantic Ocean roughly midway between Greenland and England. Just don’t visit it in winter because 1) everything is closed, and 2) blink and you missed daylight. Iceland was under the spotlight so to speak last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that word very very quickly so we can have a laugh) erupted, causing widespread air travel disruption.
If very very very long winter nights by the fire are not your thing, that’s OK, I’m with you, and this is why I prepared 159 additional countries for you to visit in my blog, so don’t be shy and click away!
Now. Cars. Yes. It’s a car site after all. The Icelandic car market, although very limited, has gone through a radical transformation since the economic crisis of 2008-2009…
You see Iceland being a rough country with some unsealed roads and all, 4WD are actually justified, not just for dropping the kids at school (they walk to school anyway because it’s around the corner). That is, if you have enough $$ to buy them.
Pre-crisis, there were a lot of 4WDs and SUVs among the best-selling models in Iceland. Precisely 11 in the Top 20. And if the Toyota Yaris (no, not a 4WD) was #1, the Toyota Land Cruiser ranked #2 (admire it above in location – picture taken by myself yes sir)…
…the Toyota RAV4 was #5 and the Land Cruiser 200 was #7.
|2||Toyota Land Cruiser||418||4.7%|
|7||Toyota Land Cruiser 200||194||2.2%|
|15||Suzuki Grand Vitara||133||1.5%|
|18||Hyundai Santa Fe||121||1.4%|
Then the crisis hit.
And the car market in Iceland was annihilated. At its worst, it was down 89 percent year-on-year over the first 5 months of 2009. Over the full year 2009 it was down 76 percent at 2,132 units. Since then it has slowly crept back up but is still nowhere near its pre-crisis levels: up 46 percent in 2010 at 3,106 units and a further 66 percent over the first 11 months of 2011 at 4,771 registrations. To be compared to 15,942 in 2007…
And with the crisis, a completely new set of cars appeared atop the best-seller rankings. The most recent data I have is already one year old and covers the first 7 months of 2010 but the difference is already striking. Much less 4WDs, only 2 in the Top 10: the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Land Cruiser 150.
Instead, it’s a (cold) flood of small cars: the VW Polo takes the lead with a very respectable 9 percent market share…
…followed by the Toyota Yaris at 7.3 percent (in-situ here courtesy of me)…
… then the Suzuki Swift at 6.5 percent
and the Hyundai i30 at 6.2 percent.
In the Top 10, there’s also the Chevrolet Spark…
…VW Golf and Hyundai i20!
|5||Suzuki Grand Vitara||136||5.7%|
|9||Toyota Land Cruiser 150||84||3.5%|
And I can’t let you go without the traditional golden nugget that will make you shine in the darkness of boring dinners…
The Icelandic consumer is also rediscovering the joys of more rustic 4WDs, resuscitating the Lada Niva (up to #33)
and the Land Rover Defender (at #39) – granted, this is one overpriced 4WD but hey, it sold just 11 units, not enough to put the government in bankruptcy yet again…
Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.