Photo Report: Driving a Fiat Panda through Sardinia, Italy

Panda Blu sunsetEsmeralda, our “Panda blu”

After exploring remote areas of the Chinese Sichuan Province, we now fly over to the European summer, more precisely in Sardinia, an Italian island located west of the mainland and south of the French Corsica island in the Mediterranean Sea. Our itinerary goes around the island anticlockwise, starting and ending in Olbia on the north-eastern coast and exploring such wonders as the Costa Smeralda, the jetset cities of Porto Rotondo and Porto Cervo, the stunning archipelago of La Maddalena…

1. Fiat 500X Bosa SardiniaFiat 500X and Lancia Ypsilon in Bosa, Sardinia (click on any picture to enlarge).

… Santa Teresa de Gallura from where we can clearly see the Corsican coast, Castelsardo, Alghero, Bosa, San Salvatore, Cagliari, Terra Male and Cala Gonone (see map below). It’s a total of 1.450km over six days – many thanks to Audrey for putting on the driving cap every second day. Our ride in Sardinia is, logically, a rental Fiat Panda. The Panda is the current best-selling vehicle in Italy with 8% market share and sales up 23% so far in 2016, but also the #1 vehicle in the rental car sales charts in 2015.

Sardinia mapThe itinerary: from Olbia to Olbia, via Alghero, Bosa and Cagliari.

After Albert the Ram 1500 in our U.S. Coast to Coast 2014 exploration, Bob the Ram 2500 in our U.S. North to South 2015 Report, Charlie the Jeep Wrangler in our Hawaii 2016 Report and Damo the Haval H8 of our Australian Outback adventure, the next BSCB ride had to get a name starting with E. We chose to baptise our “Panda blu” Esmeralda, the first female name we choose at BSCB, simply because this is the first “car” we drive as opposed to the “trucks” we had before. In French, my native language, a car is feminine and a truck is masculine, and therein lies the rationale behind all our name choices.

2. Fiat Panda Cagliari SardiniaFiat Panda II in CagliariFiat Panda Bosa SardiniaFiat Panda I in Bosa

But why “Panda blu” I hear you ask. Upon arriving long after sunset in the tiny northern village of Aglientu, we asked our way to a group of Italian mammas gossiping on the sidewalk. One of them promptly picked up her mobile phone to directly call the manager of the accommodation we were staying at and give her directions to come pick us up. Description of our car: “una panda blu” – said in the endearing singing voice of all Italian mammas. That would be because our Panda was blue (same pronunciation in Italian). We thought it rang well, even better than Esmeralda. So it would be our “Panda blu” from then on. But patience: the full Panda blu review is further down in this article.

Fiat Panda Palau Sardinia 2Fiat Panda III in PalauFiat Seicento Bosa SardiniaFiat Seicento and Panda I in Bosa

The most frequent nameplates spotted over the entirety of the trip, from various tiny town streets to large autostradas, were without a second thought the Fiat Panda followed by the Punto, in this way reflecting the past decade of new car sales in Italy as a whole and aligning Sardinia with the rest of the country. The Panda has indeed just overstepped the Punto for the first time in the Past decade sales charts (see table below). All generations of the two nameplates are very well represented, but a striking observation is the high frequency of first generation Pandas (1980-2003) compared to the near-absence of any Fiat Uno (1983-1995). Granted, the Uno had a much shorter lifespan but it obliterated the Italian sales charts then, culminating at 23.8% share in 1986.

Best-selling nameplates in Italy – Past decade (2006-2015):

Pos Model 2006-2015
1 Fiat Panda 1,370,026
2 Fiat Punto 1,366,027
3 Ford Fiesta 673,429
4 Lancia Ypsilon 539,357
5 Fiat 500 490,096
6 VW Golf 468,922
7 Citroen C3 433,532
8 Toyota Yaris 414,806
9 Opel Corsa 401,772
10 VW Polo 374,272

Source: UNRAE

Time has passed since that domination though, and not many Unos have survived up to this day. Instead, the first generation Panda, inside the annual podium during most of its 24 year-career (it ranked #2 in 2002!), has left a much stronger mark on today’s Sardinian car landscape. The 2nd generation Panda, #2 in Italy during its entire career (20042011), is the most frequent vehicle on the Sardinian coast, slowly being caught up by the 3rd gen which has led its home market without interruption since its first full year of sales in 2012, ending then 18 consecutive years of Punto domination.

Citroen Mehari La Maddalena SardiniaCitroen Méhari in La Maddalena.

During all our worldwide explorations, we often declare cars as the heroes of a specific region as they appear to be particularly successful there. Sardinia has two heroes.

1. Citroen Méhari

Just as the cumbersome e-Mehari makes its entrance in Europe, the first Sardinian hero is the valiant Citroen Méhari (1968-1988), a kind of ancestor to the off-road convertible SUV. This observation is particularly valid in the archipelago of La Maddalena, in a way an island of an island. Méharis stream through La Maddalena, the main town of the island, to the point that it’s not uncommon to have at least one in our field of vision at any given time – see picture below with 3 Méharis “at once”. The perfect summer car even almost 50 years after its original launch and 28 after its discontinuation, the Méhari would remain a surprising symbol of this Sardinian trip.

Citroen Mehari x3 La Maddalena SardiniaThere are three Citroen Méharis on this picture – in La Maddalena.

For a bit of history, 144.953 Méharis were produced in twenty years. Originally, a méhari is a fast-running camel which can be used for racing or transport, this according to Wikipedia. The Méhari weighs just 535 kg (1,179 lb), has a body made of ABS plastic with a soft top and is based on the Citroen Dyane 6. It employs the 602cc flat twin petrol engine shared with the 2CV6 and Citroen Ami, similarly to the way the mechanical parts of the 1960 Mini became the 1964 Mini Moke. And it’s fair to say Sardinians are still in love with this endearing vehicle. Plus, my observations throughout the island showed the Citroen brand surprisingly strong with a continuous stream of 1st gen C3, the C-Elysée already common as well as many C3 Picasso, new C4 Picasso and 1st gen Xsara Picasso.

Land Rover Defender Bosa SardiniaLand Rover Defender in Bosa
Land Rover Defender San Salvatore SardiniaLand Rover Defender in San Salvatore 

2. Land Rover Defender

Second hero of the island, the just discontinued Land Rover Defender was a true surprise. Sardinia has a very modern road network serving the very touristy coastline, and the first impression is that this shouldn’t require any vehicle to have any particular 4WD abilities. But once venturing inland it’s a vastly different story. In no time, the network transforms into tiny winding roads making their way up the relatively high mountains populating the centre of the island, notwithstanding a multitude of rocky dirt tracks that we did not dare explore. The Defender thus became a staple of the Sardinian inland, along with its license plates always starting with ZA. This is not a separate 4WD categorisation as I first thought, rather the mandatory lettering when your rear plate is square – one of the many intricacies of the Italian license plates system.

Citroen C1 Land Rover Defender Bosa SardiniaCitroen C1 in Bosa
Fiat Panda 500 Palau SardiniaFiat Panda and 500 in Palau

Italy Full Year 2015 – sales to rental companies:

Pos Model 2015 % % rental /14 2014 % Pos
1 Fiat Panda 24,726 7.9% 20% -6% 26,346 10.0% 1
2 Fiat 500L 22,721 7.3% 46% 10% 20,656 7.8% 2
3 Fiat 500 13,615 4.4% 33% -20% 17,046 6.4% 3
4 Peugeot 308 9,130 2.9% 51% n/a n/a n/a n/a
5 VW Golf 8,799 2.8% 22% 14% 7,722 2.9% 6
6 Fiat 500X 8,196 2.6% 25% new 0 0.0%
7 Fiat Punto 7,739 2.5% 14% -36% 12,003 4.5% 4
8 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 7,329 2.3% 32% 32% 5,539 2.1% 9
9 Lancia Ypsilon 7,251 2.3% 13% -12% 8,240 3.1% 5
10 Renault Clio 7,182 2.3% 17% 10% 6,529 2.5% 7

Source: UNRAE

Being a touristic hotspot, the Sardinian car park is heavily influenced by rental cars such as our Panda blu, with the Fiat Panda incidentally the most popular vehicle with Italian rental companies in 2015 ahead of the Fiat 500L, for which a staggering 46% of its 2015 total sales are to rental companies (see table above). Only the Peugeot 308 does “better” (51%) in the Top 10. Up 10% last year vs. a 6% drop by the Panda, the 500L should logically take the lead of the rental sales charts this year, and indeed it is omnipresent on Sardinian roads, as well as the facelifted Fiat 500, #3 rental in 2015. The Fiat 500X is also strong in Sardinia, but at 25% rental ratio it falls closer to the national average (20%) which could indicate it is also particularly successful with private buyers here.

Alghero street scene SardiniaStreet scene in Alghero

Another striking observation in Sardinia – even though it is true in the whole of Italy – is the prevalence of station wagons in the larger car segments. For example, the new generation VW Passat is extremely frequent on Sardinian roads – partly because of its popularity as a rental car – yet I only spotted one sedan in six days. All the rest, probably close to fifty specimens, were station wagons. Even though the station wagon segment has been hit full frontal by the SUV craze and in sharp decline in the whole of Europe bar Sweden, sales in Italy remain solid at 87.614 over the first 7 months of 2016, a whopping 17% year-on-year increase earning it a stable 7.4% market share. The Audi A4 is the best-seller so far in 2016 but it will be interesting to follow the launch of the Tipo SW over the 2nd half of the year as it is the only true Italian offer in a particularly successful segment, and therefore could be destined to huge success.

Italy 7 months 2016 – station wagon sales:

Pos Model 7m 2016 % % SW /15 7m 2015 % Pos
1 Audi A4 8,131 9.3% 90% 56% 5,210 7.0% 4
2 Peugeot 308 7,942 9.1% 59% 21% 6,545 8.7% 1
3 VW Passat 6,386 7.3% 90% 21% 5,268 7.0% 3
4 Ford Focus 6,319 7.2% 61% 9% 5,781 7.7% 2
5 Renault Clio 5,925 6.8% 18% 38% 4,284 5.7% 5
6 BMW 3 Series 5,798 6.6% 81% 44% 4,026 5.4% 7
7 Skoda Octavia 4,657 5.3% 95% 17% 3,987 5.3% 8
8 Opel Astra 4,603 5.3% 56% 10% 4,203 5.6% 6
9 Toyota Auris 3,796 4.3% 58% 12% 3,382 4.5% 10
10 VW Golf 3,177 3.6% 11% 6% 2,999 4.0% 11

Source: UNRAE

The Renault Clio (#5) is the only small car in the Top 10 SW with 1 in 5 Clio sold being a station wagon, and this is confirmed looking at the Sardinian car landscape: the occurrence of Clio SW is a lot higher than at home in France for example. Compact cars occupy five spots in the Top 10 including the Peugeot 308 at #2 (#1 in 2015) and the Ford Focus at #3 with an average of 60% SW ratio except for the Golf (11%). Larger cars are almost exclusively sold as station wagons in Italy and this is a particularity of the local market: no other market in the world behaves this way. Confirming my observations in Sardinia, 90% of Audi A4 and VW Passats are sold as SW, 81% of BMW 3 Series and 95% of Skoda Octavia…

Jeep Renegade La Maddalena SardiniaJeep Renegade in La MaddalenaRenault Clio Bosa SardiniaRenault Clio in Bosa

Sardinian new car sales outpaced Italy as a whole in 2015 at +18% to 25.293 units vs. +16% nationwide. The largest provinces are Cagliari at 9.886 (+18%), Sassari at 6.131 (+24%), Olbia-Tempio at 2.225 (-0.6%) and Carbonia Iglesias at 1.943 (+26%). The smallest is Ogliastra at 603 (+33%). Other popular vehicles across the island include the Jeep Renegade – particularly in La Maddalena as pictured above, the Renault Clio and Captur, Smart Forfour and the Fiat Tipo sedan already although I spotted only one hatch all week.

Panda Blu Sicily by CarOur Panda blu.

Our Panda blu was a rental from Sicily by Car (weird) – by far the cheapest option at 309.75€ for 6 days (US$346) – and a solid companion all through the trip, with no gremlins to report. Sitting inside places you too high in the car – regardless of your height – and the seat is not adjustable that way. There is no USB port which meant no personal music the entire trip, only a… CD player as if tourists were still travelling around with all their music on CDs. The interior design on the other hand is one of the strengths of the car: it’s modern yet playful while replicating the rounded square theme that characterises the car as a whole (headlights…), such as for the hand brake.

Panda Blu detailPanda Blu interior detail: it has its name written all over it… 

Very creative: the letters of the word PANDA make up the texture of the console and interior door top skin (see picture above). Definitely some Italian design flair here. The gear shift placed on the central console – and not on the ground – ends up being quite comfortable in the long run. Pushing our Panda blu to 145 km/h (90 mph) resulted in no notable vibrating or shaking of the car but the small bumps on the autostrada sent the car’s backend a little loose – scary. Above 100 km/h (62 mph), a strident whistling makes its apparition at the base of the driver door window frame, potentially the result of imperfect joints. The car remains relatively silent at high speed though.

Panda Blu Ferry SardiniaOur Panda blu on the Palau-La Maddalena ferry

The overall impression is one of practicality and fun modernity, a car that will do the job and put a smile on your face while driving, all-in-all a very good result given the cut-throat starting price of 8.250€ (US$ 9.230) the Panda is offered at in Italy. No wonder it’s the best-seller here.

Fiat Multipla Cagliari SardiniaFiat Multipla in Cagliari
Maserati Levante Porto Cervo SardiniaMaserati Levante in Porto Cervo
Audi Costa Smeralda SardiniaAudi advertising in Porto CervoAutostrada 50kph limitation Sardinia50km/h speed limit on the “autostrada”

Finally, I couldn’t end this summer Photo Report without a few hand-picked particularities of Sardinia, with an automotive angle of course. Firstly, the autostradas are new and very well maintained, but sometimes tout a 50km/h (31 mph) speed limit… Given the frequency of ridiculously low speed limits popping up everywhere on the island, we came to the conclusion that it was the only way the Sardinian police had found to shock drivers into driving slightly slower. It’s not working: a rule-of-thumb is that it is ok to drive at 3 times the speed limit. 30km/h means 90, 50 means 150, etc… Yep, this is the wild, wild west.
Talking about the wild west, every service station has at least one bay where staff is supposed to fill up your tank for you, at a premium. You must try and find the bay that says “piuself” as sometimes the price difference per litre can verge on the nasty side of outrageous: one Esso servo had a self-serve price of 1.389 € per litre whereas the “rip-off” price was 1.639 €/L, with no indications anywhere whatsoever and no staff to serve you anywhere anyway! Advice from experience: make sure to read the price/L on the actual pump before starting to fill up. Sneaky, but we are in Italy after all.

Mini WoodyClubman by Castagna Porto Cervo SardiniaMini WoodyClubman by Castagna Porto Cervo Sardinia 2Mini WoodyClubman by Castagna in Porto Cervo

The Photo Report continues below with the remainder of the 40 Pictures.

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Italy July 2016: Hatchback lifts Fiat Tipo to 7th place

Fiat Tipo Italy July 2016. Picture courtesy quattroruote.itFiat Tipo. Picture courtesy quattroruote.it

* Now updated with actuals for the Top 45 All-brands and Top 50 models – see title *

The June 2016 and H1 2016 posts have now been updated with the Top 180 models

New car sales in Italy slow down their growth in July to just +3% at 137.367 registrations, but the year-to-date total is still up by a very comfortable 17% to 1.189.161. Worryingly, July sales detail display the first year-on-year decline for price sales in 2016 at -6% to 86.451 for a 62.9% share, a 6 points drop vs. a year ago. Short-term rental sales on the other hand are up a whopping 58%, and with long-term rentals (aka leases) up 14%, overall rental sales are up 22% to 21.856 units or 15.9% share. Another red flag that consumer confidence may be about to dip is the first decline of the year for the used car market, down 6% to 382.689 transfers in July, with a year-to-date market up 5.5% to 2.838.956.

Renault Clio Italy July 2016Renault is up 16% and the Clio is still the best-selling foreigner in Italy.

Brand-wise, Fiat remains the uncontested leader, evolving roughly like the market at +5% to 29.290 sales and 21.5% share, distancing Volkswagen (-7%), Ford (+4%), Renault (+16%), Opel (-13%) and Peugeot (-8%), an order identical to both the 2016 year-to-date and Full Year 2015 rankings. The three German luxury premium carmakers all grow faster than the market, with Audi up 8% (#8), Mercedes up 20% (#7) and BMW up 24% (#9). Other strong performers in Italy in July include Jeep/Dodge (+19%), Mini (+24%), Land Rover (+28%), Mazda (+35%), SsangYong (+65%), Honda (+93%), Jaguar (+170%) and Infiniti (+775%).

Mercedes GLE Coupe Italy July 2016Mercedes sales are up 20% year-on-year in July in Italy. 

The Fiat Panda is still and by far the best-selling nameplate at home in Italy but at -2% to 10.990 sales it posts its first year-on-year decline since August 2015, also putting an end to 7 consecutive months of double-digit gains. The Lancia Ypsilon is up 1% to #2, the Fiat Punto is down 22% year-on-year but up two spots on June to #33, the Renault Clio is up 5% to remain at #5 and the Fiat 500L is up 20% to #5. Now that the hatchback variant is now available in dealerships across the country, the Fiat Tipo shoots up 10 spots on last month to break into the Top 10 for the first time at #7 with 3.161 sales and 2.3% share, taking the lead of its segment above the VW Golf (#10). Notice also the Jeep Renegade up 33% to #14, the Dacia Sandero surging 78% to #16, the Hyundai Tucson up to #22, Ford Ecosport up 62% to #27 and the BMW X1 up 942% to #41.

Previous post: Italy First Half 2016: Fiat tightens grip on home market up 19%

Previous month: Italy June 2016: Renault up 58% to keep Volkswagen at bay

One year ago: Italy July 2015: Fiat 500X up to #7, best-seller in the 500 family

Full July 2016 Top 45 All-brands and Top 50 models below.

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Italy 1st Half 2016: Fiat tightens grip on home market up 19%

Fiat Tipo Italy June 2016. Picture courtesy quattroruote.itThe Tipo helps Fiat up 22% over H1 2016. Picture quattroruote.it 

* Now updated with the Top 45 All-brands and Top 180 models – click on title to see *

After gaining 15% a year ago, the Italian new car market confirms it is firmly on the mend with sales up another stunning 19% over the first half of 2016 to 1.050.842 registrations. Perennial leader Fiat outpaces its home market with deliveries up 22% to 223.029 and 21.4% share vs. 20.9% a year ago. The hierarchy is changing within its lineup though: if the Panda (+27%) and 500L (+3%) remain dominant, the 500 (+5%) is now threatened by the 500X (+101%) while the Punto (-14%) tumbles down to #7 overall and the all-new Tipo makes its very first appearance in a mid-year ranking in Italy at #18 with 14.138 sales. Volkswagen and Ford remain #2 and #3 respectively for now, but are under intense pressure from Renault, up 32% to 70.280 sales and 6.7% share. Below, Opel (+10%), Peugeot (+15%) and Toyota (+10%) lose market share whereas Lancia (+22%) gains thanks solely to the Ypsilon, up 23% to #2 model overall and accounting for 99.94% of the brand’s sales in Italy so far in 2016.

Ford Ecosport Italy June 2016. Picture courtesy autobild.deThe Ford Ecosport is up 54% in Italy so far in 2016. 

Lower in the brands ranking, notice Mercedes (+22%) and BMW (+23%) teasing Audi (+19%) for the luxury title, Jeep up 38% thanks to the Renegade (+50% to #13), Suzuki up 33% thanks to the Vitara, Mazda up 83%, Honda up 119%, SsangYong up 128%, Infiniti up 273% and Jaguar up 299%. Over in the models aisle, thanks to Fiat and Lancia holding strong, 6 of the 7 best-sellers are Italian with the only foreigner among them being the Renault Clio, up 20% to 4th place overall with 29.699 sales. The VW Golf (#8), Polo (#9) and Ford Fiesta (#10) follow. The Peugeot 208 (+33%) and Citroen C3 (+38%) also deliver solid gains, while the Hyundai Tucson is the 2nd most popular all-new model below the Fiat Tipo at #24 overall. Notice also the Ford Ecosport up an excellent 54% to #29 and the Renault Kadjar shooting up to #30 but breaking into the Top 20 in June.

Previous post: Italy June 2016: Renault up 58% to keep Volkswagen at bay

One year ago: Italy 1st Half 2015: SUV craze energises market up 15%

Full H1 2016 Top 45 All-brands and Top 180 models vs. Full H1 2015 data below.

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Italy June 2016: Renault up 58% to keep Volkswagen at bay

Renault Clio Italy June 2016. Picture courtesy quattroruoteThe Clio (+76%) helps Renault up 58% in June in Italy.

* Now updated with the Top 45 All-brands and Top 180 models – click on title to see *

The May 2016 post has also been updated with the Top 180 models

Explosive new car sales growth slows down to a still outstanding +12% in June in Italy to 166.047 registrations, leading to a First Half tally up 19% to 1.050.842 units. After dropping to a lowest-ever 58.2% share in May, the private sales ration climbs back up to 60% in June with business fleet at 21.1% (15.6% in May) and rental sales at 18.9% (26.2% last month). Market leader Fiat improves slightly faster than the market at +14% and 34.657 units and 21% share, but the hero of the month is Renault, up a stunning 58% to remain in 2nd place overall with 12.618 sales and 7.6% share, keeping Volkswagen at bay (12.503). Ford (-1%), Opel (-0.1%) and Peugeot (+3%) follow, with Mercedes surging up 3 spots on May and 18% year-on-year to #7 and BMW up 23% and 5 ranks to #9. Outside the Top 10, Hyundai (+31%), Alfa Romeo (+34%), Smart (+29%), Suzuki (+27%), Mazda (+54%), Honda (+143%), Lexus (+80%), Jaguar (+161%) and Infiniti (+246%) impress.

Monthly sales by channel – Italy past 12 months:
(Privati = private sales, Noleggio = rental sales, Societa: business fleet)

Italy 2016 06 by channel

Alfa Romeo Giulia Italy June 2016Alfa Romeo Giulia

In the models ranking, the Top 5 most popular nameplates remain unchanged compared to May, with the Fiat Panda leading the way as usual (+12%), followed by a very dynamic Fiat 500L (+28%), a struggling Lancia Ypsilon (-1%), a roaring Renault Clio (+76%) and a decomposing Fiat Punto (-26%). The VW Golf gains four spots on May to land at #6 and the Fiat 500X is up 42% but down 3 ranks on last month to #9. Among recent launches, the Fiat Tipo sees its chances of breaking into its home Top 10 getting slimmer, down two spots to #17, the Renault Kadjar makes its very first appearance inside the Italian Top 20 at #20 (+9%) and the Hyundai Tucson is down two to a still very solid #21. Further down, the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia just misses out on its first Top 50 ranking at #54 (800 sales) and the Fiat 124 Spider points its sporty bonnet just outside the Top 100 with 298 units sold.

Previous month: Italy May 2016: Crossovers continue to lift market up 28%

One year ago (1): Italy June 2015: Citroen C4 Cactus in Top 30

One year ago (2): Italy June 2015: Now available with Top 180 best-selling models

Full June 2016 Top 45 All-brands and Top 180 models below.

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Italy May 2016: Crossovers continue to lift market up 28%

Fiat 500X Italy May 2016Fiat is up 34% at home and the 500X up 87%. 

* Now updated with actuals for the Top 180 models and Top 45 brands – click on title to see *

The April 2016 post has now been updated with the Top 180 models

Euphoric month for Italian new car sales, up 28% or 40.000 units to 188.980 deliveries and lifting the year-to-date total up 21% or 153.000 sales to 884.000. Homegrown carmaker Fiat manages once again to outpace its home market with sales up a stunning 34% to 41.077 for a 21.9% market share. Renault shoots up an incredible 72% on May 2015 to hold the overall 2nd spot with 14.827 units and 7.9% share vs. 6.6% so far in 2016. Volkswagen underperforms with sales up just 13% at #3, ahead of Ford (+27%), Opel (+15%) and Peugeot (+17%). Inside the Top 10, Lancia (+38%), Toyota (+26%) and Audi (+28%) all outpeform the market while outside, Kia (+32%), Mini (+36%), Skoda (+59%), Jeep (+62%), Mazda (+67%), Honda (+122%), Ssangyong (+144%), Jaguar (+216%) and most strikingly Infiniti (+1365% thanks to the Q30) all impress.

Monthly sales by channel – Italy past 12 months:
(Privati = private sales, Noleggio = rental sales, Societa: business fleet)

Italy 2016 05

Renault Megane Italy May 2016. Picture courtesy largus.fThe new model lifts the Renault Megane up 123% in Italy in May. 

In the models aisle, the Fiat Panda follows the market with sales up 27% to 14.047 while just below, the Fiat 500L (+43%), Lancia Ypsilon (+39%), Renault Clio (+45%) all posts spectacular gains, so does the VW Polo (+53%) at #7. Note the Renault Clio overtakes the Fiat 500 year-to-date to rank 4th, the only foreign nameplate in the 2016 Top 7. The crossover invasion continues in Italy: the Fiat 500X is up 87% to #6, the Jeep Renegade up 74% to #12, the Renault Captur up 44%, the Hyundai Tucson nudges up to #19 with 2.326 sales and the Renault Kadjar is up 6 ranks on April to #29, the exception being the Peugeot 2008 (-1%) and Opel Mokka (-16%). Notice also excellent performances by the Dacia Sandero (+59%), Ford Kuga (+88%), C-Max (+80%), Renault Megane (+123%), Twingo (+66%) and Toyota Auris (+80%).

Previous month: Italy April 2016: Fiat Tipo up to #13 in market up 12%

One year ago: Italy May 2015: Fiat Punto up 30%, Fiat 500X recedes outside Top 10

Full May 2016 Top 180 models and Top 45 brands below.

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Italy April 2016: Fiat Tipo up to #13 in market up 12%

Fiat Tipo Italy April 2016The new Fiat Tipo is getting closer to a first Top 10 ranking at home.

* Now updated with actuals for the Top 45 brands and Top 180 models – see title *

The March 2016 post has now been updated with the Top 180 models

The Italian new car market posts a 6th consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year gains in April with deliveries up 12% to 168.696 units, lifting the year-to-date total up a splendid 19% to 693.830 registrations. The five most popular brands all lose market share vs. a year ago: Fiat (21.4%) is followed by Volkswagen (7.5%), Ford (6.8%), Renault (6.4%) and Peugeot (5.3%), reproducing both the March and year-to-date order. Lancia and BMW (both at +26%) deliver the largest gains in the Top 25, both up 26% on their April 2015 score, ahead of Hyundai (+24%), Jeep (+24%), Mini (+24%), Mercedes (+22%), Suzuki (+22%), Skoda (+20%) and Audi (+18%). Below, Mazda (+96%) thanks to the CX-3, Honda (+120%) thanks to the HR-V, Jaguar (+696%) thanks to the XE and F-Pace (178 sales), Ssangyong (+111%) thanks to the Tivoli, Ferrari (+108%) and Lamborghini (+229%) all post spectacular improvements.

Lancia Ypsilon Italy March 2016Another very solid month for the Ypsilon, single-handedly keeping the Lancia fire. 

Model-wise, the Fiat Panda continues to frankly dominate, even outpacing the market with sales up 18% in April and 30% so far this year. The Lancia Ypsilon, now the brand’s sole survivor has found its place above the Panda in the FCA lineup and is now going from strength to strength: up 27% this month to 6.923 sales and 4.1% share, cementing its 2nd place year-to-date at 3.8% share vs. 2.8% for the Fiat 500 at #3. The Fiat Punto (+14%) is back up 7 spots on March to land on the podium, with the Renault Clio (-3%) and VW Polo (+27%) leading foreign nameplates. Just outside the Top 10, the Peugeot 208 (+31%) and Jeep Renegade (+30%) post very strong results, but the big news is the 13th place of the Fiat Tipo, fast finding its way towards the Top 10 at home. The low-cost sedan sells 2.912 units for a 1.7% market share without a hatchback nor station wagon yet. The Hyundai Tucson (#21), Ford Ecosport (+171%) and Audi A4 (+127%) also shine.

Previous month: Italy March 2016: Recovery continues with volumes up 17%

One year ago: Italy April 2015: Fiat 500X in Top 10

Full April 2016 Top 45 brands and Top 180 models below.

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Italy March 2016: Recovery continues with volumes up 17%

Fiat Tipo Italy March 2016The new Tipo helps push Fiat sales up 22% at home in March. 

* Now updated with actuals for the Top 45 All-brands & Top 180 models – see title *

The February 2016 post has now been updated with the Top 180 models

Avanti! Italian new car sales are on a roll in 2016: up another 17% in March to 192.008 registrations, lifting the 1st quarter total up 21% to 524.141 units. March being the biggest month of the year, this means March 2016 is the largest monthly volume in Italy in no less than 6 years. The good news is this spectacular growth is healthy, unlike neighbours France and Spain, with the private sales ratio going up from 57.2% a year ago to 61.5% this month thanks to volumes surging 26% year-on-year. On the other hand, after a very strong first two months of the year, sales to rental companies are down 2% in March. The first quarter figures show private sales up a whopping 30% to 63% share, up 4 percentage points on the same period last year, whereas rental sales are up just 9% to 23.1% share, down 2.6 pp.

Italy 2016 03Italy March 2016 – Monthly sales detail by channel

Brand-wise, Fiat once again beats its home market thanks to a smart rationalisation of its lineup with sales up 22% to 41.926 and 24.3% share vs. 20.9% year-to-date. Volkswagen (+21%) is back in 2nd place, but just, at 14.281 sales vs. 14.087 for Ford (+26%) while below, Renault (+31%) is catching up, followed by Peugeot (+15%) and Opel (-3%) both underperforming. Lancia (+30%), Jeep (+29^%), Honda (+118%), Mazda (+48%) and Lexus (+72%) shoot up while Ssangyong (+148%), Infiniti (+243%) and Jaguar (+401%) pull the largest overall year-on-year gains in the market this month.

Fiat 500 Italy March 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frFor the second month running, the entire Fiat 500 family fits within the Italian Top 5. 

In the models ranking, the Fiat Panda follows the market at +17% to 15.866 sales and 8.3% share, with the Lancia Ypsilon in tow at 7.124, up a fantastic 32%. For the second month in a row – and ever, the entire Fiat 500 family fits within the Top 5 best-sellers: the 500 is up 39% to #3, the 500X up 171% to #4 and the 500L down 23% to #5, adding up to 18.211 sales and a record 9.5% market share, markedly above the Panda. The 500 family now also fits within the year-to-date Top 5 for the first time in Italy. Meanwhile the Punto is down to #10 so far in 2016 vs. #2 in 2015, but the all-new Tipo is up a further 2 spots to #22 thanks to 2.327 sales, the highest monthly total since the nameplate’s relaunch last November. Other great performers this month include the Jeep Renegade at #12 (+44%), the Peugeot 2008 (+38%), Peugeot 308 (+43%), Citroen C3 (+40%), Ford Focus (+52%), Audi A4 (+108%) and Ford Ecosport (+100%).

Previous month: Italy February 2016: Entire Fiat 500 family fits within Top 5 for 1st time

One year ago: Italy March 2015: Fiat 500X now inside Top 20

Full March 2016 Top 45 All-brands and Top 180 models below.

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Italy February 2016: Entire Fiat 500 family fits within Top 5 for 1st time

Fiat 500 Family Italy February 2016For the first time the Fiat 500, 500L and 500X all fit within the Italian Top 5…

* Now updated with the Top 180 models and Top 45 brands – click on title to see *

The January 2016 post has now been updated with the Top 180 models

After gaining 17% in January, the Italian new car market accelerates its growth further, galloping up 28% year-on-year in February to 173.883 registrations. This lifts the year-to-date total to 331.339 units, up 23% on the same period a year ago. All sales charts display euphoric figures: 18 of the Top 20 car brands post double-digit gains, with 8 out of the Top 12 even clocking up gains of 30% or more. Fiat is among them at 36.573 sales, up 34% on February 2016. After years of positioning hesitation, it seems as if everything is starting to click together now for the Italian manufacturer.

Fiat Tipo Italy February 2016…while the Fiat Tipo continues to progress at #24.

The process has been convoluted because Fiat is not replacing its range model by model, rather moving it around in clusters. Fittingly, this month marks the first time in its history that all three members of the newly formed Fiat 500 family fit within the Top 5, led by the 500L at #3 (+3%), ahead of the 500 (+10%) and the 500X (+184% as it launched a little more than a year ago). The 500 family adds up to 8.4% share this month – roughly what the Panda commands on its own – and could see this growing further as each model now has its own, well recognised space within the Fiat range.

Lancia Ypsilon Italy February 2016The Lancia Ypsilon beats the market at +31% this month. 

The rest of the Fiat lineup is being regrouped around two main models: the Panda, flying off at +51% to 14.788 sales, and the Tipo, a value-for-money compact car that launched a few months ago as a sedan (and as the Egea in Turkey where it is manufactured) with station wagon and hatchback variants coming shortly: it is up 7 spots on January to reach #24 with 2.014 sales. The Punto (#10) should progressively be replaced up by the Tipo hatchback and, potentially, the 500X as an upgrade option. Lancia, discontinued in the rest of Europe and restricted to the sole Ypsilon, has also found its place as a reasonably posh small car that’s cheaper but larger than the Fiat 500. It also beats the market this month at +31% and 6.769 sales and places #2 overall.

Ford Focus Italy February 2016The Focus (+39%) helps Ford overtake Volkswagen in February.

Ford (+34%) overtakes Volkswagen to snap a very rare 2nd spot in the brands ranking: it’s only the second time in the past 3 years along with last September that Ford ranks #2 in Italy. Peugeot (+30%), Citroen (+37%), Audi (+38%) and Mercedes (+33%) also frankly outpace the market. Further down, let’s notice Jeep (+48%), Smart (+35%), Land Rover (+63%), Skoda (+38%), Mazda (+148%), Honda (+112%), Ssangyong (+213%) and Jaguar (+331%). In the models ranking, great performers include the Opel Corsa (+80%), Toyota Yaris (+36%), Jeep Renegade (+68%), Citroen C3 (+75%), Peugeot 308 (+55%), Hyundai Tucson all-new at #26 and the Smart Fortwo up 121%.

Previous month: Italy January 2016: Fiat 500 back on podium, Punto out of Top 10

One year ago: Italy February 2015: Opel Mokka and Smart Forfour break records

Full February 2016 Top 45 brands and Top 180 models below.

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Italy January 2016: Fiat 500 back on podium, Punto out of Top 10

Fiat Punto Italy 2015. Picture courtesy of largus.frAbout to be scrapped: never before had the Punto ranked outside the Top 10 at home. 

* Now updated with the Top 180 models and Top 42 All-brands *

A great start of the year for the Italian new car market, up 17% year-on-year to 156.163 registrations, mainly pulled by extensive discounts across the industry that have boosted private sales up 24% to 66% share vs. 63% a year ago. Sales to short-term rentals are also up an equally impressive 29%, in line with a trend we are starting to see spread across Europe. Both Fiat and Volkswagen outpace the market at +20% each to 21% and 7.6% share respectively, and all carmakers in the Top 10 except Toyota posts double-digit gains: Citroen leads them all with a 33% surge, followed by Renault (+23%), Peugeot (+22%) and Ford (+17%). Audi is up 15% at an excellent 8th spot. Further down, notice Kia (+28%), Jeep (+48%), Suzuki (+58%), Mazda (+125%), Ssangyong (+133%) and Jaguar (+558%) all delivering spectacular improvements.

Lancia Ypsilon Italy January 2016The Ypsilon is the last Lancia standing and just received a facelift. 

The Fiat Panda sails off to even higher heights in the models ranking with sales up a whopping 42% to 13.367 vs. 5.558 for the #2, the Lancia Ypsilon (+12%). The Fiat 500 finally comes back onto its home podium thanks to its facelift with sales up 6% while the Fiat 500X remains at an outstanding level in 4th place, with the Renault Clio best-selling foreigner once again at #5. Both the VW Golf and Polo gain 32% at #7 and #8, and the Jeep Renegade (+65%) is only 14 units off breaking into the Top 10 for the 2nd time ever after November 2013.

Audi Q3 Italy January 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frAudi Q3 sales are nearly double their level of a year ago in Italy. 

But the main event this month in Italy is the Fiat Punto continuing on its slow and painful death row: for the first time since the legendary nameplate launched in Italy in September 1993, the Punto falls outside its home Top 10 at #12 with just 3.152 sales and 2% share, down a devastating 39% on a year ago. The Hyundai Tucson is shaping up to become one of the very top best-selling SUVs in Italy, breaking into the Top 20 only a few months after its launch at 1.954 sales. The Citroen C3 is up 52% at #21, the Peugeot 308 up 31% to #22, the Audi A3 up 28% to #25, the Fiat Tipo up a further 14 ranks on December to #31, Audi Q3 up 92% to #32 and the Citroen C4 Cactus up 31 spots on last month to #45.

Previous post: Italy Full Year 2015: Fiat Panda leads, 500X and Jeep Renegade superstars

Previous month: Italy December 2015: Fiat 500X stays on podium, Tucson & Kadjar up

One year ago: Italy January 2015: Fiat 500X lands at #23

Full January 2016 Top 180 models and Top 42 All-brands below.

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Italy Full Year 2015: Panda leads, Fiat 500X & Jeep Renegade superstars

Fiat 500X Jeep Renegade Italy 2015. Picture courtesy motorbox.comThe Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade are remodelling the Italian car landscape. Picture motorbox.com

* Now updated with the Top 45 All-brands and Top 200 models *

Check out 60 years worth of Italian Historical Archives here *

* The December 2015 article has also been updated with the Top 180 models *

At last a frank improvement for new car sales in Italy for 2015: up 16% or 215.000 units to 1.574.872 registrations, the highest annual volume since 2011 (1.757.649). The Italian market is however still far from getting back to its average level of the last couple of decades, with 2015 sales equivalent to the level it reached back in 1984, but still lagging behind the 1993-1996 crisis years (see 37 year-data set below). A couple of elements confirm this is a true recovery year for Italy – unlike a rather artificial spike in 2014: Private sales grow faster than the market at +18% to 1.009.537 registrations, improving their market share from 62.4% to 63.7%, while rental sales are also up 18% to 311.352 units or 19.8% share (12.1% for lease and 7.6% for short-term rentals) and Company sales lag behind at +5% to 262.729 units. As a result, local manufacturers association UNRAE predicts another dynamic year in 2016 at +7% to 1.68m units.

Italy 1978-2015 – Annual sales:

Italy 1978 2015

Italy 2015 – Monthly sales detail by channel:

Italy 2015 12 Annual sales detail. Picture courtesy unrae.itSource: UNRAE

Fiat retains its throne at home, evolving similarly to the market at +17% to reach 20.9% share and 329.177 sales. Volkswagen is up just 8% to lose share to 7.6% and is one of only five manufacturers in the Top 40 to not post double-digit year-on-year gains in 2015, a testimony to the vigorous recovery the Italian new car market is currently experiencing. The other culprits are Lancia (+2%), Alfa Romeo (+8%), DS (+3%) and Chevrolet (-95%). The Top 7 best-selling brands are unchanged on 2014 with Ford (+19%) rounding up the podium followed by Renault (+16%), Opel (+18%), Peugeot (+18%) and Toyota (+8%). Nissan (+18%) is up 3 spots to #8, with other carmakers lodging impressive gains including Land Rover (+23%), Mitsubishi (+31%), Mazda (+36%), Smart (+52%), SsangYong (+61%), Lexus (+64%), Jaguar (+66%), Infiniti (+129%) and Jeep (+164%) thanks to the Renegade (see further down).

Fiat Panda Italy 2015The Fiat Panda holds onto its crown at home.

The Fiat Panda is the most popular nameplate in Italy for the 4th consecutive year with sales up a very impressive 21% to 126.306 and 8% share, the nameplate’s highest annual volume since 2010. The Panda outsells all carmakers bar Fiat in 2015. Thanks to heavy discounts, the Fiat Punto remains 2nd and manages to limit the damage to just -1% and a lowest-ever 3.6% share at 56.449 sales, just above the Lancia Ypsilon up 9% to 55.326 units and the Fiat 500L down 3% to 49.918. The Renault Clio is once again the best-selling foreigner in Italy: it gains one spot to break into the annual Top 5 for the first time in 12 years – since 2003. It distances the Ford Fiesta (+9%), VW Golf (+5%) and VW Polo (+17%) while the Fiat 500 is down 6% to 6th place.

Renault Clio Italy 2015First annual Top 5 ranking in 12 years for the Renault Clio in Italy.

The main event in the 2015 Italian models ranking is the thunderous landing of the Fiat 500X directly in 10th position, a ranking that should improve vastly in 2016 given the crossover broke onto the podium both in November and December. Its “twin” the Jeep Renegade shoots up to a stunning #17, by far the best-ever ranking achieved by a Jeep in Italy. The Renegade’s success was however tamed by the arrival of the 500X: it never matched the #10 spot hit back in December 2014, with a 2015 best of #13 in November.

Opel Mokka Italy 2015. Picture courtesy larevueautomobile.comThe Opel Mokka is inside the Top 15 in 2015. 

The SUV fever has continued to spread all across Italy, with the Opel Mokka up 36% to #15, the Renault Captur up 29% to #16, Kia Sportage up 26% to #25 and Ford Ecosport up 4-fold to #33 – even hitting a record #23 in November and making Italy the only market in Europe where Ford’s made-in-India SUV isn’t considered a flop. Notice also the Opel Corsa up 28%, Peugeot 308 up 93%, Hyundai i20 up 125%, Mini up 107% and the BMW 2 Series Tourer up to a class-leading #42 for its first full year in market. The Suzuki Vitara (#76) is the most popular all-new entrant for 2015, followed closely by the Hyundai Tucson (#78), Opel Karl (#81) and Land Rover Discovery Sport (#84) while the Renault Kadjar also manages to crack the 2015 Top 100 at #94.

Previous post: Italy December 2015: Fiat 500X stays on podium, Tucson & Kadjar up

Previous year: Italy Full Year 2014: Podium 100% Fiat for 2nd time in 15 years

Two years ago: Italy Full Year 2013: Top 5 all-Italian for the first time in 30 years

Full Year 2015 Top 45 All-brands and Top 200 models below.

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