Iran October 2016: Exclusive production and imports figures available

Peugeot 206 Sedan Iran October 2016The Peugeot 206 SD remains in production in Iran and accounts for 70% of 206 sales. 

* Click on the title to see the Top 15 most produced cars, Top 10 pickups, imports & brands *

Thanks to a partnership with CE Auto newsletter, we can now share with you a monthly update about the Iranian new car market. The period covered roughly corresponds to October 2016, but the Persian calendar works slightly differently: the month in question is the seventh month (Mehr) of the Persian year 1395. Also, this update combines production figures for local manufacturers with exclusive import sales data obtained with Iranian customs. In Mehr 1395/October 2016, 104.082 cars were produced locally (905.008 YTD), 6.342 pickups (71.596) and 4.620 imported vehicles were sold. That’s a total of 115.044 vehicles for the month.

saipa-ario-iran-october-2016The Saipa Ario is a rebadged Zotye Z300. 

In the locally-produced brands ranking, Saipa edges past Peugeot for a mere 300 units but remains well below the French manufacturer year-to-date at 290.000 units vs. 337.000. Iran Khodro remains i third place adobe Renault, Chery, Brilliance and Zamyad. Lifan leaps up to #8, Dongfeng up to #9 and JAC is down to #10.

zamyad-z24-iran-october-2016-picture-courtesy-pedal-irThe Zamyad Z24 is now the best-selling pickup so far in 2016 ahead of the Iran Khodro Arisun.

Model-wise, the Sapia Pride is once again the country’s favourite with just under 23.000 units produced this month, while the Peugeot 206 overtakes the 405 for 2nd place overall. The Sapia Tiba is up 3 spots on its July ranking to land at #4, passing the Peugeot Pars and Iran Khodro Samand. The Renault Sandero continues to improve and now ranks inside the ten most popular locally-produced nameplates at #8.

dongfeng-s30-iran-october-2016-picture-courtesy-pedal-irDongfeng S30. Picture pedal.ir 

Leading the Chinese offensive is the Brilliance H330 slotting inside the Top 10, ahead of the Chery Tiggo 5, Chery Arrizo 5, Dongfeng S30 and Lifan X50. In the pickup aisle, the Zamyad Z24 – a rebadged 1970 Nissan Junior – has now overtaken the new Iran Khodro Arisun, signalling a particularly poor transition by Iran Khodro from the immensely successful Bardo.

ssangyong-tivoli-iran-october-2016-picture-courtesy-pedal-irThe Ssangyong Tivoli is the 2nd best-selling import into Iran this month. 

The imports aisle continues to be Hyundai’s playground: the Korean carmaker holds a mammoth 27% share (32.2% in July) and places the Santa Fe as #1 imported vehicle with 18.8% share. Sister brand Kia (15.2%) passes Toyota (14%) to rank #2 importer with Renault and Ssangyong in tow. Lexus, BMW, Volvo and Porsche also make it into the Top 10. Model-wise, the Ssangyong Tivoli is climbing very fast up the charts, reaching a stunning 2nd place this month ahead of the Renault Fluence, Kia Optima and Toyota Prius. The Lexus NX and Mitsubishi Outlander also shine.

Previous post (1): Iran July 2016: Exclusive production and imports figures available

Previous post (2): Iran First Half 2016: Exclusive production and import figures available

See also: STRATEGY: What future for the Iranian new car market?

Full Mehr 1395/October 2016 Top 15 most produced cars, Top 10 pickups, imports & brands below.

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Finland November 2016: Octavia, Qashqai and Auris in photo finish

toyota-auris-finland-november-2016-picture-courtesy-tekniikanmaailma-fiToyota Auris. Picture tekniikanmaailma.fi

* See the Top 30 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

The Finnish new car market posts another stable month with November sales up just 0.1% year-on-year to 8.966, yet the year-to-date tally remains up by a large margin at +10% to 109.696. Despite sales down 1% on October 2015, Toyota reclaims the brands pole position off Volkswagen (+6%) this month but remains #2 year-to-date. Ford (-5%) and Skoda (-13%) struggle but Nissan (+12%), Renault (+48%), Audi (+38%), BMW (+22%), Dacia (+92%) and Seat (+27%) impress. Further down, notice also Suzuki (+98%), Jaguar (+150%), Lexus (+180%) and Porsche (+120%). The November models ranking is a photo finish: only 3 sales separate the Skoda Octavia (+13%), Nissan Qashqai (+34%) and Toyota Auris (+8%)! The Ford Focus (+54%), VW Golf (+47%), Opel Astra (+139%) and Audi A4 (+294%) also make themselves noticed, all within the Top 15, and although it drops 10% year-on-year, the Renault Clio ranks far above its YTD level this month at #10 vs. #25.

Previous month: Finland October 2016: Volkswagen up 24%, Golf up 96% in stable market

One year ago: Finland November 2015: Toyota Yaris and Auris lead, Volkswagen down 6% in market up 24%

Full November 2016 Top 30 brands and models below.

(more…)

South Korea November 2016: New Hyundai Grandeur shoots up to #3

* See the Top 6 local brands and Top 55 All-local models by clicking on the title *

Sales of local nameplates in South Korea are up 2% year-on-year to 144.814 units, lifting the year-to-date tally up 1% to 1.422.745. Hyundai continues to struggle at -14% to 55.721 deliveries and 38.5% share, while sister brand Kia is less affected at -2% to 48.906 and 33.8%. Local gains are in fact the work of smaller brands: GM Korea is up a splendid 51% to 11.9% share while Renault Samsung shoots up 109% to 8.7% vs. 6.8% year-to-date (+39%). Ssangyong is also in positive at +5% while Genesis remains stuck below 1.000 monthly units.

Kia Morning South Korea November 2016The Kia Morning is the best-selling nameplate in South Korea in November. 

In the models ranking, the Kia Morning gains 4 spots on October and 13% year-on-year to snap the top spot for the first time since November 2014 ahead of the Hyundai Porter (+4%) resuming its YTD domination due to a slow month by the Hyundai Avante (-23%). The big event atop the South Korean ranking this month is the third position of the Hyundai Grandeur. Although down 2% year-on-year, this is in fact a 14 spot-jump on last month thanks to the new 2017 model just launched (see launch TV ad atop this article). The Grandeur competes with the tremendously successful Samsung SM6 – aka Renault Talisman – down one spot in November to #10. Impressive performers this month also include the Chevrolet Spark (+46%), Hyundai Genesis (+90%), Kia K7 (+95%), Chevrolet Trax (+124%) and Malibu (+389%). The Samsung QM6 – aka Renault Koleos – is down 7 ranks to #19.

Foreign brands and models data will be uploaded to this article as soon as it becomes available.

Previous month: South Korea October 2016: Samsung QM6 outsells Tucson, Sportage and Santa Fe

One year ago: South Korea November 2015: Tivoli hits highest Ssangyong ranking in 11 years

Full November 2016 Top 6 local brands and Top 55 All-local models below.

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Taiwan November 2016: Corolla, RAV4 and Yaris lead, Sienta lands

Toyota Sienta Taiwan October 2016. Picture courtesy hydrocycle2.comToyota Sienta 

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and Top 70 models by clicking on the title *

The Taiwanese new car market is up 10% year-on-year in November to 38.284 registrations, lifting the year-to-date tally up 5% to 397.744 units. Toyota once again leads the market head-and-shoulders above the competition with 10.727 sales and 28% share, monopolising the models possum with the Corolla, RAV4 and Yaris. Below, Nissan/Infiniti (9.9%) and Mitsubishi/CMC (9.2%) reverse their year-to-date rankings. Mazda (+15%), Mercedes (+17%), Luxgen (+25%), Lexus (+17%) and most strikingly Volkswagen (+57%) all beat the market inside the Top 10. Model-wise, the Mazda3 is the top of the rest (read non-Toyota) in 4th place, the Toyota Vios jumps to #8, the Honda HR-V is down 6 spots on its inaugural month to a still very reasonable #13 and the Toyota Sienta makes its first appearance in the ranking at #27.

Previous month: Taiwan October 2016: Honda HR-V instant blockbuster (#7)

One year ago: Taiwan November 2015: Top 4 is 100% Toyota, Nissan X-Trail up to #5

Full November 2016 Top 10 brands and Top 70 models below.

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Hungary November 2016: Renault doubles sales in market up 43%

Renault Clio Hungary October 2016. Picture courtesy quattroruoteThe Renault Clio shoots up to 4th place in November.

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

After dipping into negative territory for the first time in almost 4 years last month, the Hungarian new car market is back to roaring shape with November sales up a whopping 43% year-on-year to 9.412, leading to a year-to-date tally up 24% to 86.801. Local producer Suzuki brilliantly beats the market at +66% to 11.9% share, distancing Skoda (+34%), Ford (+61%) and Opel (+10%). Dacia (+97%), Renault (+106%) and Toyota (+58%) also impress. Model-wise, despite Suzuki’s outstanding score it’s the Skoda Octavia that snaps the top spot this month thanks to 639 sales (+33%) vs. 624 for the year-to-date leader, the Suzuki Vitara (+53%). The Dacia Duster continues to evolve significantly above its 2015 level with November sales surging up 4-fold to 481 in third position. The Renault Clio (#4), Hyundai Tucson (#7) and Ford Kuga (#8) also over-perform.

Previous month: Hungary October 2016: Market down for the first time since March 2013

One year ago: Hungary November 2015: Skoda Octavia back to #1, VW Passat up to #4

Full November 2016 Top 10 brands and models below.

(more…)

China LCV October 2016: Discover the Top 60 models (BSCB Exclusive)

Huanghai N2 China October 2016. Picture courtesy pcauto.com.cnHuanghai N2-Series sales are up 49% year-on-year in October. 

* See the Top 60 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

October sales data for Light Commercial Vehicles in China is now available thanks to our partnership with Chinese consultancy outlet Cedars with complete Minivan, Pickup and Mini Truck model figures as well as selected Light Truck and Van data provided by LMC Automotive. Mini Trucks (+7%) and Pickups (+6%) continue to post strong results in contrast with Minivans freefalling 53% and now accounting for just 23.945 sales vs. 41.011 for Mini Trucks. This is impacting the overall LCV total down 9% to 249.776 for October and down 11% to 2.657.231 so far this year. Thanks to sales up 24% year-on-year, the Foton Light Truck snaps back the YTD pole position off the Wuling Mini Truck at 203.545 vs. 202.146 sales. It’s going to be a photo finish until the end of the year. The Wuling Hongguang V (+93%) is back on the podium, with the entire Top 7 best-selling nameplates registering year-on-year gains. As part of the pickup revival currently happening in China thanks to deregulations in four provinces, the Great Wall Wingle 6 is up 37%, the JMC Yuhu up 65%, the JAC Pickup up 82% and the Huanghai N2-Series up 49%.

Previous month: China LCV September 2016: Wuling Mini Truck now in YTD lead

One year ago: China LCV October 2015: Discover the Top 60 models (BSCB Exclusive)

Full October 2016 Top 60 models ranking below.

(more…)

France November 2016: New Peugeot 3008 soars to 7th place

peugeot-3008-france-november-2016-picture-courtesy-largus-frPeugeot 3008. Picture largus.fr

* See the Top 20 best-selling brands and Top 25 models by clicking on the title *

New car sales in France are back in positive territory in November with a vigorous 8.5% year-on-year improvement to 163.170 registrations, bringing the year-to-date tally up 5% to 1.820.814. However, these gains are once again almost exclusively the work of tactical channels with private sales up just 2.8%. If company sales are up 14.6%, the main boost this month is coming from – totally artificial – demo sales, up a whopping 43.4%. In fact, out of 12.836 overall incremental year-on-year sales in October, almost half (5.665) are demo sales.

Renault doubles the market growth with an impressive 17% gain to 33.297 registrations and 20.4% share, just above the 20% it commands year-to-date. Demo sales account for 22% of this total vs. just 8% last month and 14% year-to-date. All the while Peugeot underperforms with a meagre 1% gain to 26.721 units and 16.4% share vs. 16.9% so far this year, despite demo sales up 28%. Peugeot remains leader with private buyers at 13.340 sales (-4%) vs. 13.257 for Renault.

vw-tiguan-france-november-2016-picture-courtesy-largus-frThe VW Tiguan is up 106% on the previous generation in October 2015. Picture largus.fr

Citroen (-6%) continues to struggle with a slim 8.9% market share, its lowest so far in 2016, with private sales freefalling 17% and despite demo sales up 59% due to the new C3. Below Volkswagen (+1%), Dacia surges 60% to 4.9% share which is however still below its YTD level of 5.5%. Toyota gains 20% in 6th place, remaining above Ford (-4%) while in the luxury race Mercedes at 5.788 deliveries (+27%) overtakes Audi at 5.637 (+16%) while BMW at 5.017 (+3%) is shy. Notice also Jeep up 29%, Kia up 31%, Hyundai up 48%, Alfa Romeo up 49% and Infiniti up 175%.

In the models ranking, the Renault Clio jumps up 35% year-on-year to 10.163 sales, almost 3.000 units above its rival the Peugeot 208 in difficulty at -7%. The Clio’s advantage over the 208 year-to-date now stretches to just under 10.000 units. The Renault Captur (+6%) climbs back past the Peugeot 308 (-5%) and Peugeot 2008 (-11%) while the Renault Mégane edges up one spot on October to #6 overall. The best performance of the month is once again the work of the new generation Peugeot 3008, now fully embracing its SUV status and flying up to 7th place overall thanks to 4.476 sales, way above its segment competitors the Renault Kadjar (3.166), Dacia Duster up 43% (2.912), VW Tiguan up 106% (2.445) and Nissan Qashqai (2.229). For reference, the first generation Peugeot 3008 has a personal best of #4 in France dating back to March 2013. Peugeot says it received 22.000 orders for the new 3008 since launch.

citroen-c3-france-november-2016-picture-courtesy-largus-frStill waiting to pounce: the new Citroen C3 (#20).

Among the other star French launches of the past few months, the Citroen C3 III drops back 3 spots to #20 while the Renault Scénic IV doesn’t make it to the Top 25. Notice also the Dacia Sandero up 89%, the Toyota Yaris up 27%, the Ford Fiesta up 19%, Opel Mokka up 32% and the Renault Talisman (#23) taking its distance vs. its rival the Peugeot 508 (#29).

Complete brands and models rankings will be uploaded to this article as soon as available.

Previous month: France October 2016: New generation Peugeot 3008 above Duster and Kadjar

One year ago: France November 2015: Peugeot 208 on top in market artificially up 11%

Full November 2016 Top 20 brands and Top 25 models below.

(more…)

Spain November 2016: Renault Mégane soars to pole position

renault-megane-spain-november-2016bThe Renault Mégane is the best-selling vehicle in Spain in November.

* See the Top 47 All-brands and Top 282 All-models by clicking on the title *

The Spanish new car market returns to double-digit growth rates in November at +13% to 93.066 registrations, the largest October score since 2007 (125.227), lifting the year-to-date gain to +10.9% and 1.056.159 units, the highest 10 month-result since 2008 (1.089.112). Yet a phenomenon now widespread across Europe prevents analysts such as myself to jump for joy too high: most of the October year-on-year increase is due to artificial channels – read easily manipulated with self-registrations and much less profitable – such as company sales up 29% to 30.100 and sales to rental companies up a whopping 43% to 7.016. Private sales only gain 3% on October 2015 to 55.950 units and represent 60.1% of the market vs. 65.8% a year ago. The year-to-date situation is more favourable to private sales: up 7% but down from 55.8% to 53.8% share while company sales are up 15.9% to 27.6% share vs. 26.4% and rentals are up 15.8% to 18.6% share vs. 17.8% a year ago.

audi-q2-spain-november-2016The Audi Q2 has already broken into the Spanish Top 100.

In the brands ranking, Renault surges 42% to take the top spot for the second consecutive month at 8.323 sales and 8.9% share, while Volkswagen benefits from a low base last year when its October sales were severely affected by the emission scandal to gain 21% to 7.112 and 7.6%. Opel gains a very shy 1% to #3 with 6.630 but stays in the year-to-date lead at 83.250 sales (+16%) above Volkswagen at 81.480 (+0.3%) and Renault at 80.415 (+14%). Other great performers near the top of the ranking include Seat (+37%), Hyundai (+20%), BMW (+67%), Audi (+26%), Fiat (+43%) and Mini (+49%). Reversely, Peugeot (-2%), Ford (-3%), Citroen (-5%), Kia (-12%) and Dacia (-15%) lose ground. Among smaller brands, notice Abarth (+102%), Jaguar (+109%), Maserati (+180%) and Infiniti (+359%).

Renault digitals templatesThe Mégane is benefiting from leasing promotions up to the end of the year in Spain. 

Model-wise, the Renault Mégane simply doubles its sales year-on-year thanks to the new generation and a special leasing offer (see picture at top of article), leading it to take the overall Spanish pole position for the first time since October 2014. The Seat Leon (+15%) is knocked down to 2nd place but remains by far the top seller so far this year at 32.188 units (+7%) ahead of the Seat Ibiza at 30.046 (+4%), staying at #3 this month. Below, the Renault Clio (+23%) and VW Polo (+45%) impress, at #8 the Hyundai Tucson breaks into the Top 10 for the third time in the past 8 months after April (#10) and August (#5) and the Opel Mokka is boosted by its facelift up 58% to #10, the brand’s best-seller above the Astra (#11) and Corsa (#12).

toyota-c-hr-spain-november-2016The Toyota C-HR makes its first appearance inside the Spanish sales charts. 

The Seat Ateca leads recent launches (<12 months) once again but drops four spots on October to #21 while the new generation Peugeot 3008 shoots up 39 ranks on last month to #29 with 1% share. The next best things are the Ford Ka+ at #54 (+17), the Fiat Tipo at #69 (-11) and the Audi Q2 breaking into the Top 100 for its first full month of sales at #95 (+88). The one newcomer of the month is the Toyota C-HR landing directly at #108 with 217 sales – a score that should improve drastically over the coming months.

Previous month: Spain October 2016: Seat Leon leads, Ateca breaks into Top 20

One year ago: Spain November 2015: Dacia Sandero doubles sales to #1

Full November 2016 Top 47 All-brands and Top 282 All-models below.

(more…)

Italy October 2016: Rental sales spruce market up 10%

lancia-ypsilon-italy-october-2016Not dead: now a single-model brand, Lancia is up 30% at home in October. 

* NOW UPDATED with the the Top 40 brands and Top 180 models – click on title to see *

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

The Italian new car market is up 10% year-on-year in October to 146.632 registrations, bringing the year-to-date tally up 17% to 1.553.394, some 220.000 units ahead of the result reached during the same period last year. Local association UNRAE confirmed its forecast of 1.850.000 sales for the full year 2016, which would be the best year in Italy since 2010. For 2017, UNRAE predicts a 5.4% growth to 1.945.000 deliveries. Dampening the enthusiasm this month is the paltry performance of private sales down 4% to 88.491 and 59.6% share vs. 68.1% a year ago… Sales to rental companies are pushing the market forward with a staggering 44.6% gain to 26.203, with short-term rentals taking off at +123% and long-term up 30%. Business sales are up 34.6% to 33.712, spruced up by government incentives.

infiniti-qx30-italy-october-2016Thanks to the Q30 and QX30 (pictured), Infiniti sales are up 616% in Italy this month.

Market leader Fiat gains slightly less ground than the market at +7% to 29.582 units and 20.2% share vs. 21.2% year-to-date, followed by Volkswagen (+20%) and Ford (+11%). In fact, the Top 7 best-selling brands are identical to September and to the year-to-date order with Renault (+6%), Opel (+8%), Peugeot (+14%) and Toyota (+15%) in tow. Mercedes (+14%), BMW (+20%) and Lancia (+30%) round up the Top 10 and all outpace the market. Further down, notice Hyundai (+21%), Subaru (+24%), Skoda (+31%), Alfa Romeo (+32%), Jeep (+33%), Honda (+59%), Maserati (+115%), Jaguar (+177%) and Infiniti (+616%) all posting impressive results.

abarth-124-italy-october-2016Old and new: the Abarth 124 

Over in the models ranking, the Fiat Panda continues its decline at -6% but remains frankly in the lead at 7.9% share, more than double the sales of the #2, the Lancia Ypsilon prepped up by a recent facelift at +31% to 5.448 sales and 3.7% share. The Fiat 500L more than ever benefits from the strength of rental sales in Italy with deliveries up 49% year-on-year to 3.823 and cementing its third position YTD. The Ford Fiesta (+21%), VW Golf (+17%) and Fiat 500 (+47%) also shine inside the Top 10 while outside, the Jeep Renegade (+48%), Peugeot 208 (+20%), Nissan Qashqai (+23%) and Hyundai Tucson (+42%) impress. Boosted by new models, the VW Tiguan (+264%), Opel Astra (+156%), BMW X1 (+190%) and Toyota RAV4 (+152%) take off.

suzuki-ignis-italy-october-2016-picture-courtesy-red-live-itThe Suzuki Ignis has landed in Europe – first in Italy.

No less than five new nameplates make their first appearance inside the Italian Top 180 this month. They are led by the Audi Q2 landing directly at 110 sales with almost a quarter of a thousand sales for its first month in market. Below is the Abarth 124 arriving at #139, the Hyundai Ioniq at #147, the Volvo V90 at #175 and the Suzuki Ignis at #180, marking the first European country to allow Suzuki’s latest entrant into its sales charts.

Previous month: Italy September 2016: Fiat 500L and VW Polo shine in market up 17%

One year ago: Italy October 2015: Hyundai Tucson and Renault Kadjar shoot up

Full October 2016 Top 40 brands and Top 180 models below.

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From North Cape to Gibraltar – Part 1: Stockholm and Central Sweden

bjorn-tallberg-2BSCB is off to Sweden! 

At BSCB we love linking extremes. After going from New York to Los Angeles via the legendary Route 66 in a Ram 1500 in 2014 and linking Northern Alaska to the Mexican border in a Ram 2500 in 2015 (helped by a boat and a few planes), we now move over to Europe.

europe-map-north-cape-gibraltarFrom one European extreme to the other…

This year we will be linking North Cape, the northernmost point in continental Europe, to Gibraltar, its southernmost point. Our itinerary won’t be conventional as we will start from Stockholm and head north to North Cape before tracing back south all the way to Gibraltar with the help of one flight. To help us with this task we’ll have two cars relay each other: first a Volvo XC90, then a Mercedes C-Class Coupe. The start of this trip is in Stockholm where we take delivery of our XC90…

stockholm-1First stop: Stockholm.

After four days spent in out-of-control rip-off kingdom Malta, the sudden surge of surrounding honesty and fairness is heart-warming. Yes, things are working the way they are supposed to in Sweden, and most of the time that means fast and efficiently. There is a Volvo V70 taxi exhibited inside the arrival hall at Arlanda Airport with the city centre fare displayed in large figures on the windscreen. Why isn’t every airport like this? The Arlanda Express train swallows the 45km separating the airport to the town centre in a mere 15 mins and I manage to fit a couple of hours walking on the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I’m now in Swedish mode: relaxed, quiet and smiling. I’m ready to drive.

stockholm-2Souvenir shop in Gamla Stan, Stockholm. It’s Dalahäst galore!

The Swedish new car market is currently undergoing a once-in-two-decades transformation. After 19 consecutive years of Volvo V70 domination, the Swedish manufacturer has decided to discontinue the nameplate and replace it with a more sophisticated – and expensive – V90. Will the Swedish consumer follow and upgrade their V70 to a V90, or will they switch to Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes or BMW? The first signs are the latter is happening, with Volvo combining V70, S90 and V90 sales in a attempt to hold onto the models pole position. Instead, the VW Golf has now been the best-selling nameplate in Sweden for four consecutive months at end-October. Not to worry though, Volvo remains by far the most popular brand at home, helped by renewed interest towards the smaller V60 – the best-selling model in Stockholm based on my observations – and record sales by the XC60 despite a renewal scheduled for 2017.

upplands-motor-stockholmSollentuna Upplands Motor: this is where it all started.

To try and gage interest in the new model across the country, I had planned to drive the V90. However at the time (third week of September), all V90 pressers were monopolised by the Swedish media. Instead, we will attempt to reach Nordkapp (Norwegian for Cape North) in a XC90 SUV, the brand’s flagship. Not that I’m complaining! We have a XC90 D4 Inscription priced at 600.000 skr (US$65.000 or 61.400€), loaned by the Sollentuna Uppland Motor dealership. To my surprise, this Volvo dealership is shared with Renault (and Dacia), in a setup that I will see replicated across the entire country, sometimes with Ford added into the mix. Jonas hands the key to the XC90, explains a few things like the almost-hidden button to open the glovebox and I give full thumbs up to the centre console pinch to zoom touch-screen working exactly like an iPad. I’m already impressed.

bjorn-dala-horse-avestaBjörn posing near the world’s largest Dalahäst in Avesta.

After Esmeralda the Sardinian Fiat Panda, we now need to baptise our Volvo XC90. With a male name as this is an SUV, therefore a truck which has a masculine gender in my native tongue, French. I never can’t quite get myself to call trucks with female names… Looking up typical Swedish male names serves me with rather uninspiring fares such as Fyr (most sincere apologies to all the Fyrs in the BSCB readership). I know what you’re all thinking, we all want to call this Volvo Björn, don’t we? Ok. Just this time I will make an exception: Fyr can have a middle name also. Please give a warm welcome to Fyr – Björn, we’re about to see a lot of your country together, and beyond…

stockholm-gnarp-with-reference-mapDay 1 takes us from Stockholm to Gnarp

We get out of the Volvo dealership with 6.035 km on Björn’s odometer – a figure that’s about to surge over the next week. Our first destination is the idyllic Siljan Lake, the picture-perfect region of everything quintessentially Swedish. Stepping out of Stockholm, I instantly realise this trip won’t be a fast one. Speed limits even in rural areas are almost uniformly 80km/h, 60 or 50km/h when traversing towns, and speed radars every km or so are here to ensure you stick to the rules. That’s the other side of the Swedish medal: for everything to work efficiently, everyone has to abide by the rules.

bjorn-leksand In Leksand

These first few km are also the opportunity to test Volvo’s line-assist system, and the very first time the car corrects your direction feels like driving in a slight rut: you can sense the car redressing gently towards the centre of the road. A slightly creepy feeling at first, that promptly transforms into a smart aid. More on this in the next iterations of this Series. A mere 140km into our day, we enter the Dalarna region for a mandatory selfie stop of Björn in front of the world’s largest Dala Horse (aka Dalahäst) in Avesta. Absolutely stunning and iconic to Sweden, these carved wooden horses painted in bright colours and decorated with folk-art flowers go back centuries ago, and (normally) range from 3 to 50cm high.

bjorn-tallbergIn Tällberg 

Lake Siljan was formed 360 million years ago by Europe’s largest meteor impact, whose force was equivalent to 500 million atomic bombs. How times have changed: today, the lake is impossibly quiet, with small, quaint and picturesque villages spreading along its shores. Tällberg in particular, population 200, got my vote with its sprinkle gingerbread-like houses over green pastures, most of them painted with the traditional Falu Red colour typical of the region.

rattvikOn Scandinavia’s longest wooden pier in Rättvik.

This is Sweden’s heartland, and the place most Swedes want to come to on holiday for Summer. Lucky us! Rättvik boasts Scandinavia’s longest wooden pier: the 628m Långbryggan stretching into a mirror-like Lake Siljan, however, memories from my previous (and only) trip to Sweden as a teenager conjure images of tiny, sleepy harbours along the Baltic Sea. One of the aims of this trip is to recapture that pure, serene feeling. Time to drive to the sea…

hudiksvallHudiksvall’s Möljenbjorn-hudiksvallBjörn admiring the sunset in quiet Hudiksvall. 

For this we must first cross east through endless forests on a two-lane road filled with slow trucks and cross a multitude of small villages that force our speed down. Never mind, the scenery is so calming and inspiring that it’s all forgiven, Sweden. Although way too big for my liking (pop. 15.015), Hudiksvall has a harbour that ticks more than a few boxes: its red wooden fishermen’s storehouses (Möljen) date back to the early 19th century and ignite in a burst of flaming red at sunset. We set camp further north in Gnarp after a 653 km journey, enough to get a very good first impression of the Swedish countryside car landscape. Hudiksvall is where I saw the very first V90 “in its element” (meaning outside of a Volvo dealership) of this trip – there was none in Stockholm surprisingly. A few more observations follow below.

station-wagons-rattvikIt’s a kombi’s world! 

First things first and it’s impossible to step away from this observation: the roads of Sweden are saturated with station wagons – Kombis in Swedish. This shouldn’t really be a surprise when the Volvo V70 – itself only available as a wagon – has been the best-seller here for 19 consecutive years while the V60 – also a wagon only – has ranked inside the Top five best-sellers ever since its launch in 2010. Yet local association Bil Sweden doesn’t provide any kombi sales splits for nameplates that are available in both sedan and kombi variants (we are currently in touch with them to try and extract this detail for you). And this trend isn’t recent: a quick survey of 300 passenger cars on the highway today gave a smashing 52% station wagon ratio.

vw-passat-alltrack-loruddenThe VW Passat may already be the overall best-selling nameplate in countryside Sweden.

Driving through Sweden confirms that most best-selling nameplates here are high in the sales charts mainly thanks to strong kombi sales. One kombi in particular stands out from the crowd head and shoulders: the VW Passat Alltrack 4WD variant. It’s a constant flow of the new generation of the model crisscrossing the country, by far the most frequent nameplate I’ve encountered on this part of the trip. Numerous VW Golf Variant are also to be spotted, including the all-new Alltrack model, already well spread despite being on sale for just a few months when I visited. This variant is the key to the Golf’s overall domination of the Swedish charts for the past four months. Let’s also single out the Toyota Auris (#7 so far in 2016), Kia Cee’d (#8), Skoda Octavia (#10), Audi A4 (#11), A6 (#12), BMW 5 Series (#14), 3 Series (#17), Mercedes E-Class (#22), Opel Astra (#24) and Peugeot 308 (#28), all almost exclusively sold as kombis.

ram-1500-hudiksvallRam 1500 in Hudiksvall

The Swedish countryside also reserves a few surprises: in the same way they were also popular in another nordic country – Iceland – full-size American pickup trucks aren’t rare here, led by the Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Ford F-Series. Sold as Light Commercial Vehicles, they had escaped the scrutiny of BSCB’s sales charts so far.

volvo-144-1972-rattvik1972 Volvo 144 in Rättvik

Finally, if you were hoping the Swedish countryside would be a goldmine of vintage Volvos and Saabs in pristine condition in the same vein as what we just saw in Malta, prepare to be bitterly disappointed. Old vehicles are very rare even in remote countryside and rural areas, although I did manage to snap the above Volvo 144, still valiant at almost 45 years of age…

Next we drive further north on the stunning Kustvägen Bothnian Coast road to reach Finland. Stay tuned!