Russia September 2015: Momentous shift to Korean models taking root

Hyundai Solaris Russia September 2015. Picture courtesy carscope.ruThe Hyundai Solaris is victorious in Russia for the 4th time in the past 5 months.

* See the Top 54 All-brands and Top 25 models by clicking on the title *

As predicted last month in the wake of another drop in the value of the Ruble, the Russian new car market returns to abysmal decline rates in September at -29% to 140.867 registrations, pulling the year-to-date total down 33% to 1.192.723 vs. 1.779.961 over the same period a year ago. Homegrown carmaker Lada falls much faster than the market once again at -41% to 21.658 sales and 15.4%, just four percentage points above shining star Kia, up a mesmerising 11% to an all-time record 11.4% market share, up from 7.4% a year ago. This means Kia is now also #2 year-to-date with a round 10% market share, edging past stablemate Hyundai, also impressive in September at -2% to 10.7% share. Within the Top 10, Volkswagen (-23%), GAZ (-15%) and most impressively Ford (-9%) gain market share year-on-year, the latter ranking at an excellent 9th place with 3.4% share vs. #14 and 2.2% so far in 2015.

Porsche Cayenne Macan Russia March 2015Russian Porsche sales are up an astounding 119% year-on-year in September.

As improbable at it may seem in such a dark context, a handful of brands manage to improve their volume year-on-year: UAZ benefits from an all-SUV lineup and is up 13%, Audi is up 2%, Geely up 30% – cementing its newfound status of #1 Chinese manufacturer in Russia, Mercedes Vans is up 54% and Porsche more than doubles its sales vs. a year ago thanks to the addition of the Macan at +119%. Datsun (#17) is off-limits as it celebrates one year of presence in the market. On the other end of the performance scale, Mitsubishi (-52%), Suzuki (-54%), Chery (-58%), Citroen (-59%), Honda, Peugeot (-62%), Subaru (-64%), Opel (-72%), Jeep (-80%), Great Wall (-83%) and Ssangyong (-91%) all implode.

Kia Rio Russia September 2015The Kia Rio is up 70% on September 2014.

In the models ranking, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and declare the implacable domination of Lada on the Russian sales charts is well and truly over after starting 45 years ago in 1970 with the Lada 2101, the carmaker’s first model. In September and for the 4th time in the past 5 months, the Hyundai Solaris is the best-selling nameplate in Russia thanks to sales up 10% year-on-year to 11.006 and 7.8% vs. 5.1% a year ago. The Kia Rio is up one spot on August to rank #2 with deliveries up an incrediuble 70% on a year ago to 10.822 and a record 7.7% share vs. just 3.2% in September last year. Both models easily outsell the Lada Granta, down a devastating 49% to 8.597 sales and 6.1% share. The Granta only owes its 2015 year-to-date pole position to scrappage scheme-boosted scores in March and June. At the current rate, the Granta should keep the lead in the Full Year, but just. 2016 will be another ballgame altogether.

Lada Granta Russia September 2015End of an era: the Lada Granta has only led Russian sales twice in the past 6 months.

This ‘Korean revolution’ was the subject of a full-blown article in Russia’s #1 car magazine/website Za Rulem, quoting BestSellingCarsBlog analysis, and it all happened in less than a year: only last November the Kia Rio was the first foreign model to rank #1 in Russia. If you are a long-term BSCB reader, the astonishing progression of the Hyundai Solaris and Kia Rio over the past five years isn’t a surprise, and definitely not a freak event. My 2013 Trans-Siberian coverage brought to light the exceptional regularity of both the Solaris and the Rio in every corner of the country, from Tatarstan to far-East Siberia and Lake Baïkal. This success was built on word-of-mouth from rural regions to the bigger towns, and is the result of meticulous dealer network expansion across the largest country in the world by both Korean manufacturers.

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Russia September 2015First Russian Top 20 ranking for the Toyota Prado.

In other model news, the VW Polo takes advantage of a solid month (-5%) to overtake the Renault Logan year-to-date and rank at a best-ever 4th place, while the Lada Largus is in a similar situation (-6%), passing its stablemate the Lada Kalina to rank #7 YTD. The Chevrolet Niva impresses at +2% and #10, the Hyundai ix35 jumps back up 27 ranks to #14 (no sign of the new Tucson yet in Russia), the UAZ Patriot shoots up 22% to a splendid 16th place, the Mazda CX-5 is up 1% to #19 and the Toyota Prado brilliantly breaks into the Russian Top 20 for the very first time thanks to deliveries up 20% to 1.797.

Previous post: Russia August 2015: Now with Top 315 All-models (BSCB exclusive)

Previous month: Russia August 2015: Hyundai Solaris outsells Lada Granta again

One year ago: Russia September 2014: Lada Granta hits best share, Datsun lands

Full September 2015 Top 54 All-brands and Top 25 models below.


Hungary September 2015: Vitara triumphs, lifts Suzuki to #1 brand

Suzuki Vitara Hungary September 2015The Suzuki Vitara single-handedly lifts the brand to #1 in Hungary.

* See the Top 10 best-selling models and brands by clicking on the title *

The Hungarian new car market is up 12% year-on-year in September to 7.582 registrations, lifting the year-to-date total to 67.068 units, up 11% on 2014. The big event this month in Hungary is the pole position in the brands ranking of local manufacturer Suzuki. The Japanese carmaker was the most popular in its ‘European home’ each and every single year from 1997 to 2009 before falling apart in 2010 at the time of the global financial crisis. For the first time since then, Suzuki manages to rank #1 in Hungary in September with 928 sales and 12.2% market share vs. #5 and 7.5% so far in 2015. This performance is due to one model, fast becoming the default choice for Hungarian car buyers: the Vitara. Launched at the start of the year, the Vitara is the #1 car in the country for the second time in the past three months, accounting for 64% of the brand’s sales here in September. It also overtakes the Opel Astra to rank #2 year-to-date below just the Skoda Octavia, #2 this month. Notice also the Fiat Ducato up to #4, the VW Passat solid at #9 and the Ford Ranger up to #10.

Previous month: Hungary August 2015: Skoda Octavia edges past Suzuki Vitara

One year ago: Hungary September 2014: Suzuki Swift and Ford Kuga shine

Full September 2015 Top 10 models and brands and 9 months Top 20 models below.


Lithuania September 2015: Fiat holds 20% market share

Fiat 500 Lithuania September 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frFiat 500

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands by clicking on the title *

The Lithuanian new car market is up a beautiful 22% year-on-year in September to 1.523 sales, consecrating once again Italian manufacturer Fiat with a whopping 20% market share. Fiat distances Volkswagen (14.7%), Toyota (10.9%), Nissan (8%) and Skoda (7.5%) with BMW up to a cool 6th place overall.

Previous month: Lithuania August 2015: Volkswagen teases Fiat for #1

Previous year: Lithuania Full Year 2014: Fiat 500 shoots up to 11.2% share

Full September 2015 Top 10 brands Ranking Table below.


Italy September 2015: Fiat Panda hits 10.5% share, highest in 25 years

Fiat Panda Italy September 2015Fiat Panda sales are up 57% year-on-year at home in September.

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 45 All-brands and Top 50 models actuals – See title *

Note: August data has now been updated with the Top 160 models.

Another encouraging result for new car sales in Italy, up 17% year-on-year in September to 131.052 registrations, pulling the year-to-date total up 15% or almost 160.000 units on the same period a year ago to 1.201.563. Domestic king Fiat outperforms the market at +24% to 27.372 deliveries, holding on to its 2015 market share at 21%. Ford (+14%) overtakes Volkswagen (-1%) for 2nd place with Opel (+26%) solidly installed in 4th position above Peugeot (+17%), Renault (+12%) and Toyota (+15%). Mercedes shoots up 25% on September 2014 and 7 spots on August to a splendid 8th place with just under 4% market share, Audi is up 19% to #9 and BMW up 20% to #11, meaning the three German luxury brands all outperform the overall market and gain market share. Dacia (+38%), Porsche (+46%), Mazda (+60%), Smart (+131%), Jeep (+253%) and Jaguar (+261%) all take off.

Lancia Ypsilon Italy September 2015. Picture courtesy of largus.frThe Lancia Ypsilon is #2 in September.

Model-wise, the Fiat Panda is going from strength to strength, improving by a massive 58% on September last year to 13.720 sales and 10.5% share, the first time since October 2012 (10.3%) the Panda crosses the symbolic 10% market share milestone, and the nameplate’s highest share in 25 years, since 1989! This is the highest market share reached by any model in Italy since December 2007 when the Fiat Punto hit the same figure in December 2007. In terms of volume, this month is the strongest for the Panda since March 2010 (17.141). Despite sales down 13%, the Lancia Ypsilon overtakes the Fiat Punto to rank #2 in September and the Ford Fiesta (+2 spots on August) dislodges the VW Golf (-1) to become the most popular foreigner.

Fiat 500X Italy September 2015The Fiat 500X ranks at a best-ever #7 this month.

Rare occurrence, the entire Fiat 500 family is kept outside the Top 5: the 500L (-10%) is down one spot to #6, the 500X is up 8 to equal its best-ever ranking at #7 and the 500 is down 6 to a very weak #15 spot – the generation changeover affecting sales a lot more than Fiat would have wanted – and potentially one of the explanations for the exceptional strength of the Fiat Panda. Let’s also salute the strong performances of the Toyota Yaris (+33%), Opel Corsa (+47%), Opel Mokka (+33%), Citroen C3 (+36%), Renault Captur (+123%), Smart Fortwo (+85%) and Peugeot 308 (+91%).

Hyundai Tucson Italy September 2015. Picture courtesy Hyundai Tucson lands at #33.

In the newcomers aisle, the Hyundai Tucson shoots up 28 ranks to frankly break into the Top 50 for its first full month in market at #33 with 1.063 sales, the Opel Karl improves again: up 9 spots on August to a best-ever #35, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer remains the brand’s best-seller in Italy at #41 and the Suzuki Vitara also breaks into the Italian Top 50 for the first time at #47 with 804 deliveries.

Previous month: Italy August 2015: 2 Series Active Tourer is BMW’s best-seller

One year ago: Italy September 2014: Lancia Ypsilon up to record second place

Full September 2015 Top 45 All-brands and Top 50 models below.


Brazil September 2015: Chevy Onix retains crown, Renegade outsells Gol

Jeep Renegade Brazil September 2015. Picture courtesy caranddriver.comJust what the Brazilian consumer ordered: the Jeep Renegade outsells the VW Gol in September.

* See the Top 20 best-selling brands and Top 130 models by clicking on the title *

The word crisis is adequate: Brazilian new car sales are falling deeper and deeper into oblivion with September sales down an abysmal 32% year-on-year to just 192.610 registrations, meaning the year-to-date total is now down 22% on 2014 at 1.881.671 units. We have rarely seen such disparate evolutions in the Brazilian brands ranking. The “Brazil 3″ – in analogy to the Detroit 3 – continue to implode: each manufacturer sees its sales almost cut in half in the space of a year. Fiat is still leader but down 46% to 16.6% share, followed by Chevrolet (-45%) and Volkswagen (-42%). The next five carmakers all fit between 7 and 10% market share this month and are all gaining share – if not volume. Ford, helped by the success of the new Ka, is down ‘just’ 22% to hold 10.1% of Brazilian sales this month, distancing Hyundai (-22%), and Toyota (-18%). Honda is in a class of its own thanks to the locally-assembled HR-V, gaining 14% to snap at Renault’s heels with 13.808 sales and 7.2% share.

Mercedes CLA Brazil September 2015. Picture courtesy sales are up 59% year-on-year in a market down 32%…

Then we have Jeep. Initiating Brazilian manufacturing may be the brand’s best worldwide idea yet: the Renegade continues to fly off dealerships across the country as quickly as cheap feijoada, the national food. A record 5.676 found a new home this month, meaning the Renegade outsold the once uncontested Brazilian leader, the VW Gol, which sold just 5.254 units in September! The Renegade represents 97% of Jeep sales in Brazil for the month and 90% so far in 2015, lifting the brand to an all-time high 9th and 12th places respectively. The last striking 2015 trend in Brazil is the insolent health of the luxury German brands: Mercedes is up an unbelievable 59% in September to break the 2.000 monthly sales milestone for the first time in its history, while Audi is up 34% to 1.433 units. If BMW is down 18% this ,month, it is up 2% year-to-date (Mercedes +44%, Audi +40%).

Hyundai HB20 Chevrolet Onix Brazil September 2015The Chevy Onix and Hyundai HB20 dominate the Brazilian market for the first time.

The September models ranking is even more surprising… Exactly one year ago I detailed the striking new trends that rippled through the Brazilian market. At the end of 2014 the Fiat Palio achieved the unthinkable, ending 19 consecutive years of VW Gol reign. The Brazilian models charts used to be utterly predictable, but in the space of 18 months everything changed. A freefalling market has redistributed the cards: the efforts of international behemoths such as Hyundai to design and assemble locally cars dedicated to the Brazilian consumer are now paying off, while decades of laziness from manufacturers that used to hold a quasi-monopoly on sales have ended.

Toyota Corolla Brazil September 2015. Picture courtesy current generation Toyota Corolla is the most successful to-date in Brazil: up to #8.

Chevrolet is reaping the benefits of choosing to break the status quo with the Onix, the overall best-seller in Brazil for the 2nd month running despite sales down 24% to 10.212. For the first time the Onix is directly followed by the Hyundai HB20, down 10% to 8.889 sales and overtaking the Fiat Palio, down 45% to 8.761 but still #1 year-to-date at 92.087 deliveries (-28%) vs. 87.725 (-16%) for the Onix. The trend looks set to continue if we look at the past 12 months: both the Onix and HB20 have been losing significantly less ground than the Palio all through the year. Could the Palio domination, only just starting, already be coming to an end? Probably not in 2015, but 2016 will be a different story.

Honda HR-V Brazil September 2015First Brazilian Top 10 ranking for the Honda HR-V.

Just below the Palio we have another 2015 success story: the Ford Ka gains two spots on August to rank #4 overall and #5 year-to-date, the Renault Sandero maintains itself at a shiny 7th place thanks to the new generation while the Toyota Corolla is up two ranks to #8, to BSCB knowledge the legendary nameplate’s highest ever position in Brazil. The Honda HR-V brilliantly breaks into the Brazilian Top 10 for the very first time in September at #10 with 5.747 sales and 3% while the Jeep Renegade stops only 71 units short of doing so at #11 and 5.676 deliveries.

Renault Oroch Brazil September 2015. Picture courtesy Oroch

As detailed above, the Renegade outsells the Gol, itself down a devastating 58% to #12, hitting for the 2nd month in a row the lowest monthly ranking of its 35 year-career (the Gol launched in Brazil in 1980) – and the first time it ranks outside the Top 10. Finally, September marks the first appearance in the Brazilian sales charts of the all-new Renault Oroch, the pick-up variant of the Duster: it lands at #87 with 273 sales.

Previous month: Brazil August 2015: Chevrolet Onix takes the lead for the first time

One year ago: Brazil September 2014: VW Gol down to #4, Ford Ka up to #12

Full September 2015 Top 20 brands and Top 130 models below.


UK September 2015: 43rd month up to all-time record September

VW Polo UK September 2015. Picture courtesy VW Polo overtakes the Vauxhall Astra to a best-ever #6 year-to-date.

* See the Top 10 best-selling models and Top 40 brands by clicking on the title *

New car registrations in the UK continue on their unprecedented growth path: new 65-license plates traditionally make September one of the two largest months of the year for sales, but this time we are looking at an all-time record volume for the month at an outstanding 462.517 deliveries, celebrating 43 consecutive months of year-on-year gains at +9%. All channels are up with private sales at +3%, fleet at +15% and business at +11%, as well as all fuels with diesel up 4% despite the VW scandal, petrol up 12% and alternatively-fueled vehicles up 22%. The year-to-date figure crosses the 2 million milestone for the first time since 2004 at this stage of the year at 2.096.886 units, up 7% on the same period in 2014.

Mini UK September 2015. Picture courtesy Mini is back inside the 2015 Top 10.

The three leaders in the brands ranking improve slower than the market, resulting in lower market share than a year ago but also year-to-date: Ford at 11.9% (+1%), Vauxhall at 9.5% (+6%) and Volkswagen at 8.5% (+4%). Reversely, BMW shoots up 19% in 4th position, Nissan is up 26% at #5, Audi up 11% at #6, Mercedes up 18% at #7 and Toyota up 11% at #8. Peugeot (-6%), Citroen (-12%), Land Rover and Seat (-10%) are the only manufacturers to lose ground in the Top 20. Renault (+17%), Mazda (+23%), Jaguar (+53%), Dacia (+26%), Jeep (+175%) and Smart (+129%) take off.

Vauxhall Mokka UK September 2015. Picture courtesy UK Top 10 ranking in the past four months for the Vauxhall Mokka.

The Ford Fiesta remains the most popular vehicle in the UK this month despite sales down 2% to 4.9% share, distancing the Vauxhall Corsa up a splendid 25% thanks to the new model, the Ford Focus up 6% and the VW Golf up 5%. Seeing no diesel scandal effect for now, Volkswagen even places two nameplates inside the UK Top 5 for the second consecutive month with the Polo remaining at #5. The Nissan Qashqai (+48%) surges back up to #6, the Mini shoots up to #7 with 8.754 sales, earning a spot in the year-to-date Top 10 at #9, and the Vauxhall Mokka is slowly but surely elbowing its way into a long-term Top 10 presence at #9 this month, its third Top 10 ranking in the past 4 months.

Previous post: UK August 2015: Now with Top 140 models (BSCB exclusive)

Previous month: UK August 2015: Vauxhall Mokka up, Ford Kuga breaks into Top 10

One year ago: UK September 2014: Fiat 500 hits record #6 in best September in a decade

Full September 2015 Top 10 models and Top 40 brands below.


U.S. North to South 2015: Barrow, Alaska

21. Ford F150 Barrow 2Ford F-150 in Barrow, Alaska.

Last year, I crossed the United States from Coast to Coast — New York to LA — in a Ram 1500 Tradesman, happily nicknamed Albert. You can follow last year’s coverage here. This year we embark on another crossing, this time from North to South, albeit starting a little further North than you might expect. I’ll hop in a Ram 2500 Tradesman 4×4 in Seattle eventually, but for now, as the area I’ll travel through before Seattle has only an intermittent road network, it will be a mix of planes, rental cars and ferries.

Barrow location. Map powered by mapjam.comLocation of Barrow, Alaska in the United States.

So we start north. But how far north? The furthest North we can: Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement in the United States.

2. Toyota Tundra BarrowToyota Tundra in Barrow, Alaska.

For each State we’ll go through I’ll detail the best-sellers locally, let you know if this is verified on location and speak to a few dealers to explain the variations I witness. For Barrow though, the best-sellers — although fascinating — are not representative of Alaska as a whole, so we’ll cover Alaskan figures when we reach Anchorage. You can check out the best-sellers in all 50 States over the Full Year 2014 here.

8. Welcome to BarrowWelcome to Barrow, self-proclaimed Top of the World!

Barrow, or Utqiaġvik in Inupiaq language, lies on the Arctic Ocean, 320 miles (515 km) north of the Arctic Circle and just 800 miles (1,290 km) south of the North Pole. It is the northernmost city in the United States, with a population of 4,373 as of 2013. Nearby Point Barrow is the U.S.’ northernmost point. And no, we can’t see Russia from our backyard here. Due to its location in north-central Alaska, Barrow is actually 480 miles (770 km) from Russia.

15. Barrow signpostFar from everything… 

4. Barrow centre townBarrow city centre

Due to its extreme geographic location, Barrow experiences the longest day and night in the country. When the sun rises on May 10, it doesn’t set again for nearly three months! That’s 85 consecutive midnight suns to be enjoyed. Inversely, when the sun sets around November 18, Barrow residents won’t see it again until around January 22. Yep, you read that right, over two months without seeing the sun! And on the winter solstice — December 21 — we’re talking about 21 hours of pitch-black darkness and a civil twilight of only three hours. Your (and my) first thought when reading this might be “Where is the alcohol?” Bad call, as alcohol beverages aren’t available in Barrow – a “damp” community. More on this later…

1. Ford F150 Arctic OceanFreezing Ford F-150 in Barrow, Alaska. Click on any picture to enlarge

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the Barrow climate is classified as polar. Temperatures continuously remain below freezing from early October through to late May and snowfall can occur during any month of the year. The annual mean temperature in Barrow is 9° F (-13° C), with the average temperature in February, the coldest month, dropping to -19° F (-28° C). The highest temperature ever recorded in Barrow is 79° F (26° C) on July 13, 1993, while the lowest is −56° F (−49° C) on February 3, 1924. The Barrow landscape is tundra and we are walking on a permafrost layer that is as much as 1,300 feet (400 m) deep. All houses in Barrow are built on stilts to avoid melting the permafrost on which they rest.

5. Barrow scene

6. Barrow Arctic OceanThe rough Arctic Ocean was threatening Barrow’s main road as I was there.

I stayed in Barrow on September 28 and 29 while the average temperature during the day was 26° F (-3° C). The days were still long with the sun setting around 8 p.m. but it (logically) remained extremely low in the sky throughout the day and cast very long shadows at midday. Speaking with the locals, I learned that this type of weather at this time of year is dangerously mild, with global warming making its full effects felt in town: There was no ice at all on the Arctic Ocean, and the rough sea was threatening to break the levees, made of earth and sand, that protect the main road in town. Residents in Caterpillar trucks were working overtime to rebuild them. Bob Brouillette from the Top of the World hotel told us that the main road in town was washed out a month ago and had to be completely rebuilt. Later-forming sea ice means flooding risks increase and the Ocean eroding the shore is a totally new occurrence that is understandably worrying the local residents.

7. Whale cutting BarrowWhale cutting in Barrow

The population of Barrow is 60-percent Iñupiat Eskimo, an Inuit Alaska Native group that migrated from islands in the Bering Sea to what is now Alaska around 1000 B.C. For comparison, Alaska Natives as a whole represent 16 percent of today’s state population. Before 1940, Natives were still in the majority. The vast majority of the Iñupiat population, estimated at 19,000 across the United States, lives in Alaska. Alcohol destroyed many Native communities in this part of the world — the main reason why alcohol is not for sale in Barrow (thought it can still be personally imported). A fascinating fact about the Iñupiat (along with most Arctic peoples) is the fact they still rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing — harvesting walrus, seal, beluga and bowhead whales, polar and grizzly bears, caribou, moose and fish depending on their location.

9. Ford Whale BarrowWhale cuts in the truck bed.

No need to be alarmed here. Some of these species are endangered but their harvesting for subsistence purposes is allowed and regulated for Native populations. Case in point, I was in Barrow in the middle of whale migration season and, although there weren’t any whales being butchered on the day I stayed over, the cuts from the previous week’s harvest were visible on houses’ porches and in truck beds. Barrow Native residents are allowed to catch three whales a day during whaling season. A total of 67 whales a year are quotaed to Native communities along the Arctic Ocean, along with residents of Greenland.

3. Ford F150 Barrow 1Ford F-150 with one of the three daily flights to Anchorage taking off in the background.

Bob Brouillette from the Top of the World Hotel in Barrow proudly showed us the platform north of town where whales are butchered immediately after being tugged onto shore. “A 40-foot whale can be butchered in hours,” Brouillette said. Barrow residents are careful to then dispose the waste whale bones far away from town at Point Barrow as they attract polar bears, a nuisance for locals even if it’s the town’s main touristic attraction. I would have gladly left the bones there myself if it meant I could see a polar bear!

10. Barrow airportWelcomed by a Ford F-250 on arrival at the Will Rogers Barrow Airport

No roads lead to Barrow. The town is surrounded on nearly three sides by the Arctic Ocean, iced a large part of the year except summer, although the icing period is getting shorter and shorter. This means that cargo planes are the only – and expensive – way to ship things to this remote location for a good part of the year. While I was in Barrow, the barge season (July to mid-September) had just ended. During this time, a lot of items, such as cars, are shipped by barge either from Prudhoe Bay or further south in Alaska through the Bering Sea.

11. Barrow airport 2Barrow Airport. The only airline flying to town is Alaska Airlines.

In March only, when the permafrost is at its deepest, locals create ice roads through the bush to reach the Alaskan road network in Prudhoe Bay to the east. However, with warmer winters come thinning ice. This, in addition to the hundreds of holes from abandoned oil drills in the surrounding National Petroleum Area, makes ground travel relatively dangerous and more unpredictable than it used to be. No local would venture on such trips alone and convoys of six or seven cars are organised in order to stay safe.

12. Flex Fuel BarrowMany pickup trucks in circulation in Barrow have the Flex Fuel logo on the back.

Despite the nearby oil being drilled (there was chatter of Shell withdrawing from its Barrow offshore drilling operations while I was there), gasoline stands at an eye-popping $7.00/gallon, a staggering contrast compared to the $2.29 national average and $2.73 in Anchorage. The solution: natural gas, available very easily and cheaply in Barrow with open air gas pipes visible in each street. Many pickup trucks here have “Flexfuel” logos on their back, in this case a misnomer as the trucks are not fuelled with a mix of gas and ethanol, instead fitted with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) fuel tanks and fuel-delivery systems. At the equivalent of $1 for each gallon of natural gas, you’re looking at $10 at most for a full tank if you fill up from your home gas supply. It would cost over $100 with gasoline. Even if the CNG conversion sets you back $7,500 to $9,500, it’s a no-brainer for Barrow residents. Bob from the Top of the World Hotel wonders why everyone isn’t driving a natural gas-enabled vehicle.

16. Ford Escape BarrowThe Ford Escape is a popular choice in Barrow.

So what cars are so good that Barrow locals go to great lengths to ship them here and fuel them at extortionate prices or go to the trouble of installing a CNG conversion kit? It seems Ford has had a stranglehold on the market for many years now, with a continuous flow of private F-150s and Escapes streaming Barrow’s frozen streets. There is a long heritage of the two nameplates up to the current ones, although I did not spot any all-new 2015 aluminum F-150s. All F-Series generations are very well represented here, all the way back to the 1987 model that’s still present in large numbers.

17. Jeep Comanche BarrowJeep Comanche

There is also a relatively strong heritage of Jeeps. I spotted here the very first Jeep Comanche of my entire life. This is a Jeep Cherokee pickup that was on sale from 1984 to 1992. I also spotted a handful of new Cherokees and a few Wranglers. Also popular in Barrow: Hummers. I spotted four of them in just an hour of walking through town.

18. Hummer BarrowHummer in Barrow, AK

As far as fleet cars are concerned, the F-150 is the most popular, followed by a solid count of F-250 and F-350 Super Dutys as well as the Ford Escape and Expedition. The most common taxis are Honda CR-Vs, including one current generation.

13. Barrow parking lot 1Notice the electric outlets in front of each car (and the electric plugs coming out of the grilles)

A few other particularities in Arctic Barrow: People keep their cars running when they go to the supermarket in order to keep the engine warm, even in (almost) summer conditions like now. All outdoor parking lots have an electric outlet for each car. Block heaters keep fluids and the battery from freezing. Finally, I spotted a good number of Fords with a license plate from Sound Found, a car dealership in Seattle, 2,000 miles or 3,200 km away! I will try and crack this enigma when in Seattle…

This concludes our coverage of Barrow, Alaska. Next we are headed east to Prudhoe Bay, so stay tuned!

The Photo Report (30 pictures) continues below.


USA September 2015: Market up 16% to highest SAAR in a decade (again)

Subaru Outback USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comThe Outback (best-ever 15.126 sales) lifts Subaru to a third consecutive all-time record U.S. month.

* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 280 models by clicking on the title *

All planets aligned for the U.S. new car market in September. A calendar twist that put Labor Day back from August in 2014 to September this year, gasoline prices remained low, car demand continued to be boosted by strong macroeconomic factors cont(low unemployment, growing economy and cheap credit), lastly and rather surprisingly in this overly optimistic environment, increased competition resulted in larger average industry incentives up 4% compared to September 2014 to $3.090 per vehicle according to TrueCar. All these factors combined mean a U.S. market up a splendid 16% year-on-year to 1.442.113 units, lifting the year-to-date total to 13.053.284 deliveries, up 5% or 621.000 units over the same period in 2014.

Scion iA USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comBoth the Scion iA (pictured) and iM make their debut in U.S. sales charts, pushing the brand up 57%.

Although we have been in positive all year, the September surge means FY 2015 forecasts need to be adjusted up… The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is at its highest in a decade for the second consecutive month, climbing to 18.17 million after 17.81 million in August, its strongest since a July 2005 boosted by employee discounts offered to the public, and to be compared to just 16.53 million in September 2014. It is now certain that the industry will surpass 17 million annual sales for only the third time in history, but some analysts now predict 2015 will be an all-time record year: Today TrueCar raised its 2015 forecast by 200,000 to 17.4 million, which would top the previous all-time record of 17.395 million set in 2000… In terms of segments, light-trucks such as SUVs and pickups absorbed most of the growth with sales up 24% year-on-year vs. 6% for passenger cars. Automotive News USA quoted Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America, saying “On a year to date basis, [the market] is almost 56% light truck and realistically it would probably be closer to 60 percent if the availability was there.”

Ford F-150 USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comFor the first time since July 2014, the Ford F-Series gains more ground than the Chevy Silverado.

The entire Top 8 largest manufacturing groups all lodge double-digit year-on-year gains including all of the Detroit 3. GM is up 12% lifted by GMC (+24%), Ford Motor Co is up 23% with the Ford brand up 23% also and Lincoln up a neat 20%, and finally FCA is ip 14%, solely due to Jeep (+40%) compensating for Ram (+5%), Fiat (+4%), Dodge (+3%) and Chrysler (-5%). Note Jeep posts the third highest-ever monthly U.S. volume in the brand’s history at 77.201 units, to be compared to a mere 37.464 deliveries only two years ago in September 2013… Toyota Motor Co is up 16% with the Toyota division up 15%, Lexus up 16% and Scion for once up 57% thanks to the arrival in the sales charts of the new iA (#142) and iM (#162), already the brand’s two best-seller in the country. Honda Motor is up 13% (Honda +14%, Acura +6%), Nissan Group up 18% (Nissan up 17%, Infiniti up 30%) as is Hyundai-Kia, lifted by Kia (+23%).

Range Rover Sport USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comLand Rover is the best performing brand in the U.S. in September with sales up 89%.

Subaru soars another 28% to break its all-time monthly U.S. sales record for the third consecutive month and the fifth time this year at 53.070 units. Having secured a good chunk of their monthly sales during the Labour Day weekend at the start of the month – escaping the full effects of the diesel scandal, all Volkswagen Group brands gain volume with the group up 7% as a whole pulled up by Audi posting its 71st consecutive monthly gain at +16% and Volkswagen up a shy 1%, while Porsche is up 23%. Notice also Mitsubishi up 36% and Land Rover up 89% thanks to most of its range in frank improvement (Range Rover Sport +94%, Range Rover +83% and Range Rover Evoque +71%) and the addition of the Land Rover Discovery Sport accounting for roughly 20% of the brand’s sales this month.

Ford Escape USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comThe Ford Escape is up to a splendid overall U.S. 7th place in September.

Model-wise, for the first time since July 2014 and the arrival of the new gen F-150, the Ford F-Series widens the gap over its archenemy the Chevrolet Silverado at +16% to 69,651 vs. +7% and 53.726. The GM full-size pickups however still outsell the F-Series with the GMC Sierra (+18%) lifting the GM total to 73.479. The Ram Pickup, stable, keeps the Toyota Camry (+21%) at bay both in September and year-to-date,  with the Honda Accord at a strong #5 above the Honda CR-V (+26%), Ford Escape (+31% year-on-year and 4 spots on August to #7) and Honda Civic (+27%) all clearly outperforming the market. If the Toyota Corolla is up an equally impressive 30%, it is down five spots on August to #10.

Hyundai Tucson USA September 2015. Picture courtesy motortrend.comThe new model pushes Hyundai Tucson sales up 121%.

Within the September Top 50, the majority of the largest year-on-year gains are delivered by SUVs: in ranking order, the Nissan Rogue (+45%), Ford Explorer (+31%), Jeep Cherokee (+38%), Jeep Wrangler (+26%), Subaru Outback (+34% to an all-time high 15.126 units), GMC Terrain (+32%), Dodge Journey (+45%), Ford Edge (+33%) and Honda Pilot (+31%) all post spectacular increases, as do the Nissan Versa (+50%), Subaru Impreza (+65%) and Ford Mustang, improving its sales 3-fold thanks to the new model. Among recent launches, the Hyundai Tucson is up 121% to #54 thanks to the new gen, the Jeep Renegade is up a further 5 spots on last month to #55, the Honda HR-V is up two to #88, the Mercedes GLE up 45 to #107, the Mazda CX-3 up 35 to #167 and the Volvo XC90 up 18 to #176.

Previous month: USA August 2015: Volume down but SAAR highest in a decade

One year ago (models): USA September 2014 Chevy Silverado and Nissan Sentra on fire

One year ago (brands): USA September 2014: GM fleet, Jeep lift market up, Big 3 back to Top 3

Full September 2015 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 280 models below.


France September 2015: Peugeot 208 #1, Renault Kadjar leads segment

Renault Kadjar France September 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Renault Kadjar leads its segment at home for the first time.

* See the Top 20 best-selling brands and Top 80 models by clicking on the title *

Good news coming from the French market: sales are up 9% year-on-year in September to 164.774 units, the best September score since 2011 and well above the scores of the past 3 years. This is historically a very solid month of September with only the years boosted by scrappage schemes doing significantly better. An encouraging “back to school” result in France, lifting the year-to-date total up 6% to 1.421.440 deliveries. Reassuringly, all channels display virtually the same growth with private sales up 8.9% – still at a historical low of 50% of the overall market – sales to companies up 9.3% and tactical sales up 9%, boosted by short-term rentals up 33%. The three main domestic manufacturers Renault (+4%), Peugeot (+6%) and Citroen (+2%) all gain less ground than their home market but locate themselves at various levels vs. their year-to-date share: Renault is above (20.8% vs. 19.7%), Peugeot is level (17.3%) and Citroen is below (10.2% vs. 10.7%).

Skoda Fabia France September 2015. Picture courtesy Fabia lifts Skoda up 28% in France in September.

The Volkswagen brands are not handicapped by the diesel scandal for now: Volkswagen is up 12%, Skoda up 28% thanks to the Octavia and Fabia and Seat up 22% thanks to the Leon and Ibiza, while Audi is up 6% but relegated to #3 luxury brand at #13 overall below BMW up 20% to #9 and Mercedes up 2% to #10. Dacia gains 11% but remains below its YTD level but Nissan is up 20% year-on-year and two spots on August to #6, Ford is up 18% and Toyota up 19%. Notice also Fiat (+23%), Suzuki (+26%), Mazda (+44%), Honda (+45%), Smart (+170%) and Jeep (+143%) all posting spectacular gains.

Peugeot 208 France September 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Peugeot 208 is the best-selling vehicle in France in September.

In the models ranking, the Peugeot 208 gains a splendid 23% thanks to its mid-life refresh and overtakes the Renault Clio for the second time in the past three months at 5.5% share vs. 5.3%. The Renault Captur (+13%) is back above the Peugeot 308 (+7%) at #3 but remains 4th year-to-date while the Peugeot 2008 (+6%) is back inside the Top 5 like in the year-to-date ranking, the Renault Scenic back up 9 spots on August to #7, the Renault Twingo up to #8 and the VW Polo (+25%) is the only foreigner in the Top 10 at #9 followed by the Golf (-29%) at #15.

Renault Espace France September 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frRenault Espace

The Renault Kadjar is up four spots to lead its category at #14 with 2.766 sales vs. 2.609 (+20%) for the Dacia Duster at #16 and 2.355 (+25%) for the Nissan Qashqai at #17 (that’s taking into account the fact that the Peugeot 3008 isn’t a true SUV). Notice also the Toyota Yaris up 25%, the Nissan Juke up 23%, the Mini up 68%, the Toyota Auris up 57% thanks to its facelift, the VW Tiguan in runout mode up 32%, the VW Passat up 149%, Skoda Fabia up 56% and Nissan X-Trail up 60%. Among recent newcomers, the Renault Espace is up 16 ranks on August to a fantastic #33 spot, while the Fiat 500X is up 7 ranks to #34.

Previous post: Photo Report: The cars of the South of France

Previous month: France August 2015: Renault and Clio reclaim control

One year ago: France September 2014: Renault Twingo III up to 8th place

Full September 2015 Top 20 brands and Top 80 models below.

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Spain September 2015: Seat Leon resumes domination

Seat Leon Spain September 2015The Seat Leon is back to the pole position at home.

* See the Top 40 All-brands and Top 280 All-models by clicking on the title *

The Spanish new car market continues on its recovery trend in September with sales up 23% year-on-year to 70.386 units, the best September result in Spain since 2009 and already double the score of September 2012 (35.216) at the worst of the financial crisis. The year-to-date total is also up 23% on 2014 to 789.024 deliveries in 9 months. In the first sales results published since the VW diesel scandal broke on September 18, Volkswagen manages outperform the market and remain in the brands pole position with sales up 28% to 5.979 and 8.5% share, distancing Peugeot (+21%), Renault (+5%), Opel (+20%) and Ford (+19%). Domestic carmaker Seat is up 29% but at #6 and 6.2% share it is well below its year-to-date level at #2 and 7.8%. Nissan (+26%), Audi (+41%), Skoda (+43%), Mazda (+51%) and Mitsubishi (+57%) impress, while Smart (+327%) and Jeep (+237%) take off.

Nissan Qashqai Spain September 2015Nissan Qashqai

Model-wise, after dropping to a paltry 12th spot in August, the Seat Leon resumes its market domination and snaps the Spanish pole position for the 4th time this year with sales up a fantastic 57% year-on-year to 1.929 units and 2.7% share – however well below the 3.2% it commands year-to-date. The VW Golf is up 37% to #2 while the Nissan Qashqai (+48%) completes a very dynamic podium. The Opel Astra (#5), Peugeot 308 (#7) and Peugeot 2008 (#12) all gain 49% for very different reasons: runout prices for the former, new generation and station wagon for the latter. Notice also the Citroen C3 up 53% to #20, the Dacia Duster up 69% to #21, VW Tiguan up 58% to #25, VW Passat up 75% to #26 and the Opel Mokka also up 75% to #29.

Mercedes GLC Spain September 2015The Mercedes GLC makes its first appearance in the Spanish sales charts this month.

Among recent newcomers, the Hyundai Tucson remains at a very solid level in 28th place with 1.1% share, the BMW 2 Series Tourer is up 11 spots on August to break into the Spanish Top 50 for the first time at #49, the Renault Kadjar is up 9 ranks to #55, the Fiat 500X is up 23 to #65, the Ford Ecosport up 38 to #75, the Mazda CX-3 up 9 to #86 and the Ssangyong Tivoli is up 23 to #126. We welcome two new nameplates in the Spanish sales charts this month: the Mercedes GLC lands at #113 with 146 sales and the Honda HR-V arrives at #135 with 95 units.

Previous month: Spain August 2015: Opel Astra surprise best-seller

One year ago:  Spain September 2014: Dacia Sandero confirms pole position

Full September 2015 Top 40 All-brands and Top 280 All-models below.