* See the Top 30 brands and Top 150 models by clicking on the title *
2015 was a year to forget fast for new light vehicle sales in Brazil: down an abysmal 26% year-on-year to 2.476.904 registrations – that’s 850.000 less deliveries than in 2014, or 3.300 less every business day. In one single year the Brazilian market cancelled 8 years worth of growth as we returned to the sales level of 2007 (2.342.059). Brazil drops 3 spots in the worldwide ranking from #4 to #7, overtaken by Germany, India and the UK. And the worst is probably yet to come the country enters its longest economic recession since 1930 with four consecutive quarters of contraction in 2015. Annual inflation accelerated to 10.7%, the fastest since 2002, and is not expected to slow down significantly in 2016 while the real crumbled by more than 30% against the dollar.
Brazil’s economy has been affected by the drop in oil, iron and copper prices and a heavy dependence on exports to China meant the slowdown there is particularly painful for the local economy. But perhaps more alarmingly for 2016, the consumer morale is at its lowest, with household spending receding much faster than the economy itself (-4.5% vs. -1.7% in Q3 ’15). An unprecedented bribery scandal at the government-run oil company Petrobras has scared foreign investors away and brought calls for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, who only has a 10% approval rating (source Datafolha). Some analysts describe Brazil as currently being in an economic and political paralysis.
This grim context has brought a raft of momentous shifts in the Brazilian car market. Chevrolet (387.971 sales, down 33%) led the overall market in each of the last 3 months of the year, but this wasn’t sufficient to overtake Fiat annually: the Italian carmaker holds onto the top spot despite a 37% drop to 439.165 units. Volkswagen accelerates its freefall at -38% to 359.494 deliveries: the German carmaker was down an incredible 58% in December, the most worrying element is this fall is unrelated to its current emissions scandal, rather a decades-long inertia that means most of its range is now out-of-date and out-of-sync with Brazilian consumers’ changing tastes. A momentous event: the Top 3 carmakers in Brazil (Fiat-Chevrolet-VW) fall below 50% share for the first time in decades at 47.9% vs. 55.7% in 2014.
Ford limits its fall to 18% and crosses the symbolic 10% market share milestone at 10.2%, Hyundai is down just 14% to overtake Renault and land in 5th place with 8.3% share and Toyota (-10%) gains over one percentage point of market share to 7.1%. A handful of manufacturers manage a stellar year in Brazil: the most impressive of them is without contest Jeep, which inaugurated its first factory in Goiana Pernambuco late last year to manufacture the Renegade. This move sees Jeep increase its Brazilian sales 13-fold from 3.309 in 2014 to 41.791 this year. Better still: the Renegade was the best-selling SUV in the country during the last quarter of the year, culminating at an incredible 6th place with 6.976 sales in December.
Honda is in a similar situation, up 11% to go from 4.1% share in 2014 to 6.2% this year thanks to the HR-V production localisation. The HR-V broke into the overall Top 10 three times including in December with a record 6.537 units (#9), finishing the year at #16 – the most popular all-new entrant of 2015 and by far the best-selling SUV in the country (51.155) above the Renegade (39.187), Duster (34.325, down 30%) and Ecosport (33.861, down 38%). As is often the case in times of deep crisis, luxury brands are unaffected, even improving year-on-year: Mercedes is up 29%, Audi up 40% and BMW up 5%. Notice also local fare Troller up 36% and Subaru up 25%. Chery (-44%) is the most popular Chinese brand at #19 above JAC (-40%) and Lifan (-5%) which should shoot up to 1st place in 2016.
The last (and only other) Chevrolet to top the Brazilian charts was the Monza in 1986.
It’s a proper earthquake atop the 2015 Brazilian models ranking: only one year after the Fiat Palio ended 19 the two decades-long VW Gol reign, the best-seller trophy already changes hands, snapped by the Chevrolet Onix. The Onix ranked #1 for the first time ever in August and has remained there ever since, accessing the YTD top spot in November. Thanks to sales down ‘just’ 17% to 125.931, the Onix is up 3 spots on 2014 to edge past the Palio, down 33% to 122.364. The Onix is the first Chevrolet to top the Brazilian sales charts in 30 years and only the second one ever with the Monza, #1 in 1985 and 1986. In fact, it is only the third time in the past 62 years that neither a Volkswagen nor a Fiat tops the charts. The VW Fusca (aka Beetle) ranked #1 for 27 years (1954–1980), then the Fiat 147 for 3 years (1981–1983), the VW Gol for 26 years (1987–1993 and 1995–2013), the Fiat Uno in 1994 and the Fiat Palio in 2014.
Further down, the Hyundai HB20 drops only 8% to break onto the annual podium for the first time at #3. It is the first time a Korean model ranks among the Brazilian Top 3. Below the Fiat Strada down 36% to #4, the new generation Ford Ka, up 106% to 90.187 sales for its first full year, is a breath of much needed fresh air for the American carmaker whose next best-seller is the Fiesta Hatch, down 63% to #19. Down a hair-rising 55% (-78% in December!), the previously unbeatable VW Gol is showing a decidedly bruised face in 6th place, the nameplate’s lowest annual ranking in Brazil in 35 years (since 1981). Worse: the Gol was the only Volkswagen in the December Top 12 – hopefully the German manufacturer will start aligning itself with the significantly more modern and sophisticated offers from the competition in 2016.
Other notable movements in the models ranking include the Ford Ka sedan shooting up to #23 for its first full year, the Peugeot 2008 landing at #70 and the Mercedes GLA up 62 ranks to #78. The Lifan X60 (#88) is the #1 Chinese nameplate for the 2nd year running ahead of the Chery Celer (#108) and JAC T6 (#125). Two pickups launched late in the year hold some great potential for 2016: the Renault Oroch arrives at #87 but was inside the Top 40 in November and December with roughly half the sales of the Duster on which it is based. It could climb into the 2016 Top 30. Finally, the strikingly-designed Fiat Toro only had 65 demo sales in December but will be a worthy challenger in a segment dominated by the Chevrolet S10 (#25), Toyota Hilux (#26) and Ford Ranger (#39).
Two years ago: Brazil Full Year 2013: Chevrolet Onix edges Hyundai HB20 out
Full Year 2015 Top 30 brands and Top 150 models vs. Full Year 2014 figures below.
Full December 2015 Top 20 brands and Top 100 models below.