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I was lucky enough to spend a few days on Djerba Island in Tunisia in the past week. Tunisia being a rather secretive country when it comes to car sales figures (at most two updates a year, the last one being for the Full Year 2013), this is a great opportunity to verify the sales charts in the streets. But most importantly it enables me to share with you a more detailed, deeper and overall better understanding of this Northern African market. Keep in mind Djerba is a small island off the Southern Coast of Tunisia close to the Libyan border and its car landscape does not reflect the entirety of the country given it is a rather touristic spot with lots of rental cars and taxis and in any case the majority of Tunisian car sales occur in the capital Tunis. It is however still a great way to get some very valuable insights about this market.
The first striking impression when arriving on the island is the blanket of various generations of Renault Symbol both as private cars and taxis, I would guess even more so than in other parts of the country given the high prevalence of taxis within the car landscape. Even though the Symbol has dropped from a staggering 25% market share in 2009 to a more modest 8.4% in 2013, it is still by far the most popular model here. Proof in point: the new generation Symbol, launched less than a year ago and now a rebadged Dacia Logan, is already very frequent on the island: I saw a dozen every day – albeit weirdly not a single taxi.
While in neighbouring Algeria Renault has chosen to make both new gens Dacia Logan and Renault Symbol (virtually the same car now) cohabit with the Symbol acting as the top end variant of the Logan, in Tunisia the situation is different. The Logan sedan, from what I could see on the island only used as taxi anyway since its original launch in the country in 2008, is not on sale anymore here. Only the MCV version survives, “sandwiching” the Renault Symbol along with the new generation Sandero, already very popular.
Tunisia is a market of sedans, with the Kia Rio potentially coming in second place in Djerba below the Symbol and only one hatchback out of the dozens of Rio I saw during my stay. Korean brands, very new to the Tunisian market still 100% regimented by annual import quotas, have definitely struck a chord with Djerba buyers. Apart from the Rio, omnipresent on the island, I saw many new generation Picanto and Optima, as well as a constant flow of Hyundai Elantra and a few ix35. If the Rio ranked #7 overall in Tunisia in 2013, these observations clash with the sales figures of the rest of the Korean crew, which could indicate a spike in sales in 2014 as most these models were very new-looking. I also saw a few new gen Hyundai i10 which confirms the latter observation.
As a whole the Djerba car landscape is roughly in line with the rest of the 2013 top 10 best-sellers: the VW Polo, Fiat Punto, Renault Clio IV, Peugeot 301, Ford Fiesta, Isuzu D-Max, Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo can all be seen rather often on the island. For the latter too, it is important to point out that there seems to be a long heritage of PSA vans, with a lot of the previous generations of these two models, not so much in their latest robe. Based on my observations in Djerba, the Renault Clio IV looks like it could pretend at a podium spot over the Full Year 2014 in Tunisia, as the VW Polo seems to have become rarer and rarer, same goes for the Fiat Punto.
A huge part of the car landscape on the island is still branded Peugeot, with a landscape reminiscent of France 20 years ago. I spotted one beautifully conserved Peugeot 203 (originally launched in 1948), amazingly dozens of Peugeot 404 Pick-up (1960), a good amount of Peugeot 504 (1968), 305 (1977) and 106 (1991), a few 309 (1985), one 304 break (1970) but surprisingly not many 205 (1983), although a big seller in Europe. The latter seems to indicate that contrary to most African countries, the flow of used Peugeots coming into Tunisia has been very selective with sedans preferred over hatchbacks most of the time.
Closer to us, the Peugeot 508 appeared more frequently than in France, the 206 is still omnipresent but overwhelmingly as a sedan and station wagon (only a couple of hatchbacks spotted) and the new 301, which pretty much holds the entire future of the brand here, is slowly starting to show up here and there, including as taxi. Nowhere near its 5th spot overall in 2013 though, which is concerning. A few 307, 308 and 207 complete the picture but the 208 does not look like it has been launched yet on the island, or if it has, it definitely hasn’t been met with any success as I didn’t spot any.
Renault also shows a strong heritage on the island, albeit to a much lesser extent than Peugeot. This shows that the Symbol was literally a masterstroke for the French manufacturer as it singlehandedly enabled it to take the lead of the manufacturers ranking in the country, and its success has set the stage for a successful Clio IV launch last year. The surviving Renaults on the island are mainly station wagons and vans. Completely wiped out of the French car landscape, the Renault 12 (1970) and 18 (1979) station wagons can still be seen relatively frequently in Djerba, as can the Renault 4 van in its 1967 robe! A few Supercinq (1985), Express (1985), first gen Clio (1990) and Kangoo (1997) also popped up.
The third French manufacturer, Citroen, seems to only have come to a reasonable amount of success with the launch of the Berlingo van in 1996, with no older model present in the streets of Djerba bar a few last generation 2CV (1981). Recent models are more frequent, notably the C5 which is over-represented here compared to France in the same way its Peugeot equivalent the 508 is, and of course the C-Elysée mainly as taxi. French-Romanian brand Dacia is very strong on the island with the Sandero and Duster as well as a few new gen Logan MCV already, the only Logan variant appreciated by private buyers.
Fiat shows a long history of successful sales on the island with the 1989 Uno still relatively well represented, a good amount of Albea taxis and many Puntos from various generations starting with the 1993 model. The same goes for Ford but with only one model: the Fiesta. The first generation launched in 1976 can still be spotted on the island, all the way up to the 2013 facelift also common. The Fiesta-derived Figo is also pointing its bonnet.
Toyota has come much later here and it shows: only the previous gen Corolla can be seen in good numbers. I spotted a few new gen RAV4 and one new gen Corolla as well as some Avanza though so the future could be bright for the Japanese carmaker (but really – bring on the Yaris sedan already!)… Chevrolet places its Aveo relatively high in the landscape but as the sales charts show, it has plummeted in the past couple of years.
In the premium segment, quite a few eighties and nineties BMW and Mercedes, some Audis and Range Rover Evoque. Finally, although technically all new car imports a regimented by quotas, there were a few extravagant specimens on the streets, a sign of ‘grey’ private imports. Among them a spectacularly mat-painted Chevrolet Camaro…
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