Axon’s Automotive Anorak: 2018’s motoring winners and losers
Well, the numbers are all now in, and, as suspected, new car sales in 2018 proved best forgotten in the main for a number of car makers the world over.
Unsurprisingly given Britain’s current confusion and turmoil, for 2018 new car registrations in the UK as a whole fell by 6.8 per cent over the previous year, to 2,367,147 units, the lowest British total since 2013. Diesel sales dropped a mammoth 30 per cent to under 1 million cars (at 750,165 units) to take 31.7 per cent of the total UK market, compared to 42 per cent in 2017. Conversely, British registrations of AFVs (alternative fuelled vehicles, including all-electric and PHEV power) grew by 21 per cent to account for 6 per cent of all new cars sold (up from 4.6 per cent in 2017).
The ubiquitous Ford Fiesta remained Britain’s best-selling car once again with almost 96,000 examples finding new owners, over 30,000 units clear of the (surprise) number two car, the Volkswagen Golf at 64,829 examples. The Golf’s second position comes as a surprise, surpassing Ford Focus sales in the same segment for the first time (the Focus slipping down to fifth as the third-generation was phased out and the fourth-generation introduced), with VW’s image clearly unscathed by the much-publicised ‘diesel gate’ scandal, the ramifications of which have now impacted on the entire motor industry and diesel market globally.
Vauxhall’s Corsa achieved an impressive third position at 53,000 cars, with the Nissan Qashqai fourth, Focus fifth, VW Polo sixth, MINI seventh, followed by the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage. By new car segment SUVs, crossovers and ‘prestige’ saloons all saw growth, with other sectors falling; the once-mainstream mass-market brands (Ford, Vauxhall, Nissan, etc.) suffering drops.
Premium car makers have now become the ‘mainstream’ brands themselves; with ‘prestige’ C-segment medium sector models such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 now comfortably out-selling the old guard of traditional ‘mass-market’ models; the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, et al, proving - as if proof were needed - just what brand snobs us Brits can be, with the lure of a badge seemingly out-weighing the importance of a car being a good one, or otherwise!
The UK’s top five greatest market growth winners in 2018 in (rounded-up) percentage growth terms were as follows:
+ % growth:
Conversely, the top five manufacturer registration declines for 2018 were…
- % decline:
DS Automobiles: 44
New car sales for our European cousins didn’t fare much better in 2018, remaining stable overall with EU and EFTA countries combined, but with key markets such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy all seeing market declines.
Last Autumn’s new WLTP emission regulations didn’t helping either for unprepared manufacturer groups such as the collective VW Group brands, which experienced sharp late-year declines; WLTP-ready PSA and FCA groups taking advantage of the situation, although the Golf remained Europe’s most popular new car for the year as a whole. As with the UK, diesel sales slumped in the main Continental markets too.
Further afield, USA and Japan saw static new car sales; SUVs, trucks (i.e. pick-ups in British English) and AFVs being the only areas of growth, with traditional mid-size saloons suffering the greatest declines.
In a flat worldwide new car market of c.68.2 million vehicles, the Russian, Brazilian and (most significantly) Indian car markets all experienced welcome growth. The greatest shock of 2018’s new automobile market, however, was the ten per cent decline suffered in China; now the world’s largest new car market by some margin. After 20 years of consistent (and sizeable) growth, China saw its first fall with just over 23 million new cars finding customers.
Various expert forecasts for 2019 suggest this year will see a further fall in new car demand overall, yet with the appetite for new SUVs and crossovers continuing to increase and more AFV and electric vehicles being sold due to global governmental legislation. With plenty of exciting new cars debuts due in 2019, including the new VW Golf, Renault Clio, Porsche 911, etc., it will certainly be an interesting market to watch.