SUVs and crossovers fuel European growth but Golf still number one
MORE then 10 million new cars were registered in Europe's 'big five' markets last year, as volumes increased by 8.8 per cent compared to 2014.
Germany was the largest market, with 3.2 million cars registered, though its growth rate of 5.6 per cent was the lowest among the five countries regarded as Europe's most important - the UK, France, Italy and Spain are the others.
Figures from industry analysts JATO Dynamics showed that UK registrations were up 6.3 per cent to 2.6 million, a new record. France was third with 1.91 million, a 6.8 per cent gain. Italy and Spain grew most, by 15.6 per cent and 20.6 per cent respectively.
Volkswagen led the way in the 'big five' with a 12.1 per cent market share. Ford kept its second place but lost market share from 8.0 per cent in 2014 to 7.9 per cent last year. Renault outsold Vauxhall and Opel to become the third best-selling brand in the European Big 5.
Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat were the only brands in the top 10 to post double-digit growth, while they and BMW were the only top 10 brands to gain market share.
"Traditionally the five largest markets count for three-quarters of total European volume and their positive results are an indicator of how well the car industry performed in 2015," said Felipe Munoz from JATO Dynamics.
"The brands that benefited the most from this fact were those that added new SUVs to their product ranges as this was the segment to drive the biggest part of the growth."
The Volkswagen Golf was - again - Europe's most popular car, taking first place in Germany, third in Spain, fourth in the UK, ninth in Italy and 11th in France. Last year, however, its registrations stalled and grew only by 0.5 per cent, resulting in a drop in market share from 3.99 per cent in 2014 to 3.69 per cent in 2015.
Mr Munoz noted that small and compact SUVs - like Renault's recently-launched Kadjar and Mazda's CX-3 - contributed heavily to the market growth. "These newer products were the big winners with consumers," he said. Half of the top 20 models that gained the most market share were SUVs.
For comparison, the Northern Ireland market recorded a 0.2 per cent fall in 2015 compared to 2014, while the Republic grew by 29.8 per cent. The north's favourite car is the Ford Fiesta while the Republic's best seller is the Golf.
:: Industry expects more modest growth in 2016
THE European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, known as ACEA, said the total EU market had grown by 9.3 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014, with 13.7 million vehicles sold.
"But after several rocky years since the 2008 financial crisis, the European car market is moving in the right direction again," explained ACEA president Dieter Zetsche.
"This is great progress, but we are still well below the 2007 pre-crisis level of 15.5 million cars."
The number of cars manufactured in the EU last year was up by 6.2 per cent to 15.9 million, though this is still down on 2007's high of almost 17 million.
"For 2016 we anticipate a much more modest sales increase for both passenger cars and commercial vehicles," said Dr Zetsche, who is also the chairman of Mercedes-Benz owners Daimler.
"We expect car sales to go up by around 2 per cent, reaching roughly 14 million units."
Dr Zetsche said the industry was committed to an updated laboratory test for measuring pollutant and CO2 emissions, as well as an additional test to measure pollutant emissions under real driving conditions.
"There is no doubt - we need new test cycles in Europe," he said.
"However, important regulations on CO2, emissions and test cycles continue to be drafted separately, disregarding important interconnections.
"One fairly small step to better regulation would simply be to harmonise introduction dates to a reasonable extent."
ACEA represents the 15 Europe-based car, van, truck and bus manufacturers: BMW, DAF Trucks, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Hyundai, Iveco, Jaguar Land Rover, Opel Group, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars and Volvo Group.
:: FOLLOWING Volkswagen's emissions cheating, the European Parliament has appointed a 45 member committee to investigate car makers' breaches of EU rules.
Their inquiry will also examine alleged failures by EU member states and the European Commission to enforce EU standards.
It will present an interim report within 6 months, and a final one within 12 months, of starting its work.
Europe's top 20 favourite cars
Model Registrations (thousands) Percentage change from 2014-2015
1. Volkswagen Golf 383 +1
2. Ford Fiesta 258 +2
3. Volkswagen Polo 229 +8
4. Renault Clio 224 -3
5. Vauxhall/Opel Corsa 214 +6
6. Peugeot 208 181 +7
7. Ford Focus 176 +3
8. Nissan Qashqai 167 +13
9. Fiat Panda 158 +16
10. Renault Captur 153 +20
11. Audi A3 150 -2
12. Volkswagen Passat 149 +38
13. Peugeot 308 146 +26
14. Fiat 500 145 -2
15. Vauxhall/Opel Astra 144 +4
16. Mercedes-Benz C-Class 135 +22
17. Vauxhall/Opel Mokka 132 +29
18. Peugeot 2008 128 +16
19. Toyota Yaris 125 +7
20. Dacia Sandero 121 +6
*Source: JATO Dynamics
Europe's top brands
Brand Registrations (thousands) Percentage change from 2014-2015
1. Volkswagen 1,262 +5.2
2. Ford 823 +7.5
3. Renault 742 +10.1
4. Vauxhall/Opel 728 +5.2
5. Peugeot 647 +8.3
6. Audi 593 +5.4
7. Mercedes-Benz 580 +10.8
8. BMW 556 +9.1
9. Fiat 549 +12.5
10. Citroen 428 -9.8
11. Nissan 413 +14.9
12. Toyota 351 +5.2
13. Skoda 315 +4.5
14. Hyundai 312 +13.1
15. Dacia 264 +3.3
16. Seat 257 +3.3
17. Kia 247 +10.7
18. Mini 158 +18.9
19. Mazda 135 +20.6
20. Land Rover 121 +20.6
*Source: JATO Dynamics