European new car registrations went up by 9.3 percent in 2015, driven by an SUV boom that contributed to a big part of the total growth, according to new research from JATO Dynamics. For the first time in the history of European car sales, SUVs led the way, outselling the traditional subcompact and compact segments, posting an increase of 24 percent at 3.2 million units. Their market share grew from 19.8 percent in 2014 to 22.5 percent in 2015, leaving the subcompacts in second position with 22 percent share, and the compacts segment third with 20.6 percent. These vehicles, along with the mid-size sedans/SW and sports cars, were the only segments to gain market share in 2015.
The SUV Segment Led The Way
According to JATO Dynamics, growth in the SUV segment was in part due to the outstanding results of small SUVs, which contributed almost 38 percent of total SUV segment registrations in 2015. Their volume increased by 38 percent over 2014, exceeding, for the first time, the 1 million unit mark at 1.2 million. Despite their strong growth, they were still behind compact SUVs, which accounted for 40 percent of the total at 1.28 million units. The growth rate of small SUVs also outperformed the 42 percent increase posted by the mid-size SUVs, which totalled 470,400 units. Large SUVs came last with 243,000 units, up by 27 percent on 2014’s results. SUV registrations grew in all of the 29 countries analyzed, with the U.K. posting the highest volume increase from 501,200 units in 2014 to 630,400 in 2015. Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Croatia and Greece all posted more than 40 percent growth.
In terms of brands, Nissan led the way with more than 376,000 units and 11.8 percent market share, but its volume percentage growth underperformed the total segments. Renault once again occupied second position, but this time it managed to move faster than its closest competitors in 2014, partly because of the introduction of the new Kadjar that allowed it to post a total increase of 44 percent. As a result, it moved further ahead of Volkswagen whose registrations remained static (+1.4 percent). In terms of segment share, Fiat and its new 500X posted the highest gain, followed by Citroen and Jeep.
Subcompacts and Compacts
The B and C segments occupied the second and third position, respectively, losing one ranking each. Subcompact registrations totalled 3.12 million units, up by 5.8 percent over 2014’s volume. These cars were still the most popular in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The Volkswagen brand led this segment with a 10.5 percent share, closely followed by Renault at 10.4 percent and Ford which placed its Fiesta as the best-selling of the segment. The best performers were Skoda (+18 percent), Mini (+44 percent), Mazda (+46 percent) and Mitsubishi (+35 percent).
Within the compacts, even if the Volkswagen Golf kept its position as the best-selling car in Europe, the overall segment lost market share as its volume only grew by 5.8 percent compared to 2014. The limited growth was the effect of very low increases coming from Germany, France and the U.K., the three largest markets. The segment is dominated by the Volkswagen brand, which is quite ahead of Ford and Skoda. Peugeot and Mercedes were the only other brands to post double-digit growth, while Nissan increased its registrations by 153 percent.
Through December, registrations of MPVs slid 1.8 percent becoming the top loser of the year. The 3.6 percent and 4.7 percent rise in Germany and Spain wasn’t enough to offset the declining sales in the UK (-17 percent), Italy (-4.6 percent) and France (-1.7 percent), the second largest market. Most of the fall came from small MPVs, whose volume slipped 11.5 percent compared to 2014, while compact MPVs benefited from the arrival of BMW and its new 2-Series Active and Gran Tourer. Following MPVs, mid-size sedans/SW posted significant growth (+12.8 percent), outselling the city-cars, with 9.05 percent market share. The introduction of the new Volkswagen Passat and the good results of the Mercedes C-Class boosted sales.
“Similar to the shift toward SUVs in the U.S. car market, Europeans are clearly favoring these vehicles. In 2015, this segment drove most of the growth as more consumers moved away from the traditional segments and MPVs, toward SUVs and crossovers. Both economic and social factors such as the lower fuel prices and the growing appeal of SUVs’ benefits had a big influence on this sales boom,” said Felipe Munoz, global automotive analyst at JATO Dynamics.