Taking its data into account Carwow’s head of trading Alex Rose (pictured) looks at the well documented demise of the upper medium saloon to reveal what ‘Mondeo Man’ bought next. And it wasn’t another Mondeo.
“The Mondeo was the fourth best-selling car of the 1990s, and the Vauxhall Cavalier sixth.
Buyers have been abandoning their Insignias, Passats and Mondeos in ever greater quantities.
The sector has shrunk to the extent that Renault’s Laguna and Nissan’s Primera disappeared from the new car showroom years ago, and the axe hangs precipitously over the Citroen C5 and Peugeot 508.
But where did all those happy families in their spacious, good value, hard-working family cars go?
In Quarter 1 2016 alone, more than 1.3 million cars were configured on carwow.co.uk, the website for comparing new car dealers on customer service, price and location. And, because 30% of these prospective buyers use Carwow’s free part-exchange tool to value their existing cars, this gives it a unique view on UK’s drivers’ aspirations.
Whatever they drive, wherever they are, whatever they buy, carwow can assess how the new car market is evolving.
The headline figure is that, on Carwow, just 22% of family-car owners are replacing them with another family car. But what is ‘Mondeo Man’ doing instead?
1. He’s moving up...
...in every sense. Of current ‘family car’ drivers, 18% swapped their lower-riding saloons and estates for the commanding driving positions of SUVs, the most popular of which, in the past few months, were the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson.
A further 11% went for the mildly-elevated ride, and all-round visibility, of a crossover or MPV model, led unsurprisingly by the Nissan Qashqai.
He’s moving up in other ways, too.
Notably, 20% of family car drivers traded their volume brand models for something a little more expensive and German.
The Mercedes C-Class alone took 11% of that business, followed by its E-Class stablemate, and assorted Audis.
Simple: the step up from a ‘regular’ family car to something with a little more prestige has become much easier these past few years, with so many more buyers using low-interest finance (e.g. personal contract purchase) to fund their next cars.
Because monthly payments are so closely linked to how well a car retains its value, a £35,000 car that keeps its value well (such as a C-Class) can be cheaper – per month – than a £25,000 car that quickly loses value (such as a typical ‘volume’ saloon).
2. ...he’s trading down...
When the kids leave home, or get cars of their own, what happens to the tired old family wagon?
Mum and dad buy something small and classy.
The Volkswagen Golf and Polo, and Mercedes A-Class, between them, are four times more popular than the Mondeo.
And our use of ‘tired and old’ isn’t pure speculation. When a hatchback is purchased, the outgoing family car is more than a year older than average. It really does seem that this group of owners is running its cars ‘into the ground’ until they’re able to downsize.
3. Either way, he wants change...
While neither the Mondeo nor Insignia make the top-10 choices among drivers replacing their volume-brand family cars on Carwow, the sector isn’t dead just yet: Volkswagen’s Passat and the Skoda Superb – both of which might have been considered relative ‘also rans’ in the sales charts not long ago - took 16% of the total purchases when a family car was traded in.
4. ...and the ‘next generation’ of Mondeo Man simply doesn’t exist.
You might think that with 16% of family car owners replacing their cars with a Passat or Superb, the market for family saloons remains relatively healthy, with just a shift towards Volkswagen Group products.
The issue is, however, that not only are family car drivers not replacing like-for-like but, more significantly, owners of other bodystyles aren’t ‘switching into’ family cars.
Indeed, just 2% of owners of another bodystyle (e.g. a hatchback or an SUV) will do so – so the pool of potential buyers is ever-dwindling.