Now that you know everything about the Top 200 best-selling models in the world, it’s time to snap back to April and have a close look to Europe.
Surprise surprise number 1: Sales are up for the first time in 19 months…
Surprise surprise number 2: For the first time since the launch of the nameplate in 1996, the Audi A3 is among the 10 most popular models on the continent.
More detail after the jump…
Whereas recession has now spread across most of Europe, April new car sales in the region are unexpectedly up year-on-year for the first time since… August 2011 (!) at +2% to 1,086,501 registrations. Year-to-date, the market is still down 7% on 2012 at 4,190,447 units. According to Bloomberg, the Euro zone economy is forecast to stagnate in the 3 months through June and return to growth in the third quarter, so this might signal the start of a revival of the car market, especially as governments are starting to implement measures to boost sales.
Except… not so.
Autonews and TTAC say there is no reason to rejoice as April sales were flattered by two extra days in many European markets after Easter holidays fell in March, with last year’s weak April also helping the year-on-year comparison. So this may not be the end of the tunnel after all.
Now taking full advantage of its new generation, the VW Golf is up a magnificent 18% year-on-year this month to dominate the ranking once again with 43,175 sales but is still down 2% year-to-date at 155,542 units. Outstanding month for the Renault Clio, also boosted by the new generation #1 in France, up a massive 29% to rank #2 for the second time in the last 3 months and on the podium for the 4th time in the last 6 months with 26,352 sales.
The Clio is now also up to #2 year-to-date at 101,691 units vs. 101,282 for the Ford Fiesta, down to #5 in April. The VW Polo and Peugeot 208 are both back up 4 spots on March to #3 and #4 respectively.
Audi also placed the A4 in the European Top 10, last time in August 2012.
But the big event this month is the arrival of the Audi A3 in the monthly European Top 10 for the very first time since the nameplate’s original launch 17 years ago in 1996!
The premium hatch is up to #9 with 16,787 sales (ahead of the Opel Astra!), up a whopping 45% year-on-year. Its year-to-date total now reaches 49,908 units, up 9% on 2012. And this is as the sedan version has not launched yet… As a reminder, let’s note the A3 finished 2012 at #24 in the European ranking.
It is the second Audi model to manage to break into the European monthly Top 10 after the A4 did so for the first time in July 2008, then peaking at an out-of-this-world #2 in August 2008 and clocking up a total of 6 Top 10 finishes, the last one being August 2012.
Audi therefore becomes the first premium brand to have ever placed two models in the European Top 10. BMW has one so far: the 3 Series which made its first appearance within the Top 10 back in July 1999 (However my monthly records are incomplete for that period so it may have been earlier) and peaked at #6 in December 2006.
Mercedes has not yet managed to bring one of its models into the Top 10, at least in the last 30 years as the ‘Strich 8′ may have done so in 1974-1975 and the W123 in 1977-82 but sales figures are unavailable (please let me know if you have them!). The all-new A-Class, hailed as the brand’s most successful launch ever, may break new ground and do so in the coming months…
The arrival of the A3 in the European Top 10 is another illustration of the ‘premium or low-cost‘ trend we have seen apply to European car sales over the last few years. By this expression I mean that the Global Financial Crisis triggered a new trend in car sales in Europe, splitting the market between two very distinct segments.
First the generalist, mid-level manufacturers (the French, Opel, Ford, Fiat…). They were hit full frontal and have been struggling ever since. Arguably the one member of this group to have thrived over the period is Volkswagen, mainly thanks to higher pricing and a slightly more premium perception.
Second and by far the most dynamic segments: the ‘low-cost or premium’. When you’re about to spend 25 to 30,000 euros, more and more consumers will splurge on an Audi A3 or a BMW 1 Series rather than a Renault Megane or Peugeot 308, even with all options. OR they will save up to 20,000 euros and buy a Dacia Sandero…
In fact in 2013 year-to-date, Dacia (+20%) and Mercedes (+4%) are two of only a few carmakers to gain ground so far. BMW is stable and Audi down just 2% but up 9% to #6 in April…
You can also check what the best-sellers in Europe looked like last month here:
Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.