Predictably, MG Rover sales fell heavily in the first quarter, 16.1% down on 2004. However, the MG and Rover brands have had contrasting performances, with Rover falling 26.5% but MG actually increasing by 4.3% in this period.
Last month’s sale of 1,681,736 units contributed to a 2005 first quarter total of 3,901,807, some 85,000 fewer than in the same period in 2004.
The standard lower-medium category, the VW Golf, Ford Focus, GM Astra models – is up 5.9%, while premium lower-medium models – such as Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1-Series – increased by more than 40%. That gives the two segments combined a 26% share of the total market, up from 23% in the first quarter of 2004.
The only other segments to increase volumes so far this year are SUVs, whose month-by-month growth was 8.28% for the quarter, and sports cars, which fell away in March but remain 5.35% up on the first quarter of 2004.
There was a change at the top in March, as Opel/Vauxhall took the number one position from Renault. The GM unit was perhaps helped by a Europe-wide test-drive promotion known in the UK as the Million Mile Test Drive, which, says Jato, may have required additional registered vehicles.
But Opel/Vauxhall is the only top-10 brand to increase its volumes on the year-to-date. Renault held on to the top spot for the first quarter of the year, followed by Opel/Vauxhall, Ford, VW and Peugeot.
In contrast to the top 10, BMW, Audi, Honda and Volvo were all up in March and for the first quarter. But Kia remains the fastest-growing volume brand, up 77.4% in March and 62.6% on the year-to-date.
Volumes in the mini segment slipped significantly in the first quarter, a 7.31% fall in March contributing to a 9.88% drop on the year-to-date.
The Fiat Panda leads the segment. Superminis are currently declining at an increasing rate, a March fall off 9.99% leaving the category 7.35% down at the end of March. The 206 leads the segment from Ford’s Fiesta and the Renault Clio.
The resurgent lower-medium segment is led by the Golf, Astra, Focus, Renault Mégane and Peugeot 307 so far this year. Citroen’s new C4 is just outside the Top5. In the high-selling premium lower-medium category, the A3 and 1-Series are followed by the Alfa Romeo 147 and, surprisingly, the Rover 45. The hybrid Toyota Prius continues to establish a strong niche presence, up 117% YTD.
After a strong February the upper-medium segment fell away in March but finished the first quarter of 2005 only 0.07% down, giving it an increased share of an overall market which has declined YTD.
The VW Passat has been replaced by the Peugeot 407 in the number one position for the year, ahead of the Ford Mondeo, while Toyota’s Avensis has displaced the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra for fourth. The premium upper-medium category continues to slide, down 15.72% despite the recent Audi A4 facelift and newly-launched BMW 3-Series. These two lead the segment YTD from the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Executive car registrations are down 4.92% year-to-date. The BMW 5-Series in first place is gaining acceptance all the time, and was 10.73% up to the end of March. With the recent addition of the Avant derivatives, Audi A6 volumes grew by 37.4% in March, leaving it up 27.0% for the quarter and catching the Mercedes-Benz E-Class for second place. Volumes continue to slide in the luxury segment, and were 24.29% down for the year at the end of March. Mercedes’ S-Class leads Audi’s A8 and BMW’s 7-Series.
Now that the mini/midi MPV segment has matured, it is subject to the same market pressures as other categories, with a sharp fall of 6.34% in March bringing a first quarter decline of 3.24%. Despite this the Toyota Corolla Verso is increasing sales sharply, up 173% in March and up 109% year-to-date. The Renault Scénic/Grand Scénic leads from the Opel/Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Xsara Picasso, Volkswagen Touran and Ford Focus C-Max.
Full-size MPVs are declining at an increasing rate – March saw a 27.28% fall, leaving the segment down 20.98% for the year, although the Mitsubishi Grandis was up 124% in March and 505% year-to-date following the announcement of a diesel option. The Renault Espace/Grand Espace continues to lead the segment from the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan.
The growing SUV segment continues to be led by Toyota’s RAV-4, BMW X3 and Nissan X-Trail. Despite being up year-to-date, registrations of sports cars are more volatile as they tend to be led by new product, and March saw a 4.86% fall. Mercedes’ SLK in the number one spot and its CLK stablemate in third are split by the Opel/Vauxhall Tigra YTD.