We have called it the ‘Year of the Wagon’ here at CarAdvice, but perhaps we should rename it the ‘Year of the Affordable Niche Euro Brand’.
One of those interesting patterns beginning to emerge in 2015 now that we have five full months of sales behind us is the sales rise in a quintet of smaller-volume, affordable and left-of-centre Euro brands.
I speak of Citroen, Mini, Peugeot, Renault and Skoda, all of which have shown good growth this year on the back of either new models, improved aftersales care or sharper pricing — or perhaps a combination of all three.
Alphabetically, we start at French brand Citroen, which has grown this year to 559 units — a minuscule fraction of the overall market figure of 452,577 units — but nevertheless up 16.7 per cent on the same period in 2014.
The most growth has come incrementally from the new C4 Picasso MPV (51 sales this year), but there's also good growth from the Berlingo van (up 25.2 per cent to 134), C4 (up 62.9 per cent to 57), just-updated DS3 (up 44.4 per cent to 39) and the C4 Grand Picasso (up 7.8 per cent to 110).
No doubt playing a role is Citroen’s recent introduction of a six-year warranty that plays second fiddle across the market only to Kia.
The all-new third-generation Mini Hatch is obviously the big driver here, given its sales (in tandem with the ultra-niche Clubman which is rolled into the same tally) are up 126.1 per cent to 1067 units. You can thank the addition of the new Mini 5-Door last October for that.
Peugeot is not up as impressively as its PSA stablemate Citroen, given its tally of 1922 units this year is only 7.3 per cent higher than last year. But its recent range-wide price cuts should stimulate things there.
Much more successful is Australia’s biggest French brand Renault, which keeps on powering to record growth. Sales are up a further 28.1 per cent this year to 4287 units, making it Australia’s 17th top-selling brand.
Driving this growth has been the Master van, up 96.4 per cent to 548 units, the Koleos — there are sharp discounts to be had — up 52.87 per cent to 666 units, the Clio (up 22.5 per cent to 1087 units — the top-selling Renault) and the incremental addition of the new Clio-based Captur crossover SUV, with 480 units.
Fleet deals on commercial vans with the likes of Australia Post, a bigger advertising spend, recent dealer expansions and sharp promotional deals such as $15,990 drive-away for a Clio sure can’t be hurting.
Finally, Volkswagen’s Czech subsidiary Skoda has also rocketed up 36.6 per cent to 1888 units or the year, with solid growth from the new(ish) Octavia (799 units, up 31.0 per cent) and the Rapid (172 units, up 191.5 per cent), plus incremental gains from the new Octavia Scout (142 units).
The growth of these five small Euros has not been mirrored by all European brands. Alfa Romeo (down 37.3 per cent to 717), Fiat (down 18.3 per cent to 2012), Jaguar (down 16.6 per cent to 376 — though the new XE and XF will turn this around) and the aforementioned Volvo Car (down 25.4 per cent to 1575) serve as evidence.
Blue Chip Euros Audi (up 16.3 per cent to 9128), BMW (up 13.1 per cent to 9788), Maserati (up a whopping 116.7 per cent to 234 thanks to the new Ghibli with 148 units), Mercedes-Benz (up 18.9 per cent to 14,228) and Porsche (up 58.9 per cent to 1688 thanks to the Macan with 750 units) are all performing as if with a strong tailwind.
Australia’s biggest European-based car brand Volkswagen is also powering along, up 13.4 per cent to 24,927 units.