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France First Half 2018: Dacia passes Volkswagen to #4, Top 13 is 100% French for 1st time since 1979

The new Duster (+46%) helps push Dacia up to #4 brand for the first time in a half-year ranking.

* Now updated with the Top 40 brands, Top 270 models, Top 10 private sales, Top 10 LCV brands and Top 100 LCV models – click on title to see *

“In a country caught by a forgotten fever, the French soccer team has instilled in the nation, by mimetism, a dose of energy and self-confidence that it sometimes misses (L’Equipe/La Croix).” Today we celebrate the French victory in the Soccer World Cup with complete June and H1 2018 data. We mentioned earlier the “World Cup” effect that can vitalise car sales in nations with a surprisingly good performance at the World Cup. During the year of its last victory in 1998, French new car sales saw a fantastic 14% uplift, and this year’s victory was also unexpected. As you will see below, the French new car market is already robust in 2018 but the team’s victory could strengthen sales further over the second half of the year. We’ll know more when September figures get released in early October, as Summer sales are always disrupted by holidays.

Helped by June sales amounting to the third largest volume of any month in history, new car sales in France gain a solid 4.6% year-on-year over the First Half of 2018 to 1.188.127 units. This is the largest H1 volume since the all-time record of 2011 (1.225.148) and the fifth largest ever, after 2001 (1.204.411), 1990 (1.200.103) and 2010 (1.189.434). Up until the nineties, the new model-year in France was in July and resulted in sales brought forward to that month and comparatively low H1 scores, but nowadays H1 sales are on average 17% higher than H2 in France, making the H1 records above the actual straight out half-year records. Keeping this in mind, the French market is headed towards at least 2.2 million registrations in 2018, which would put it at its best since 2011 again but only 8th all-time with the best years ever remaining 1990 (2.309.130), 1989 (2.274.307) and 2009 (2.268.671). Yet another 4.5% uplift in 2019 would result in a straight out record year. Private sales have outpaced the market through the entire semester, reversing a five-year old trend and giving a welcome injection of health into the overall market: they gain 6.3% over the period to 560.832 units and 47.2% share vs. 46.4% a year ago.

France – annual and half-year all time volume records:

Meanwhile diesel sales continue to freefall and are now down to 40% share over the First Half of 2018 vs. 47% in FY2017 and 67% five years ago in 2013 (see CCFA graph above).

The 3008 enables Peugeot to deliver a 7.6% uplift so far in 2018. Picture autoplus.fr

Among the Top 3 French carmakers, Peugeot is clearly above the rest and the only one outpacing its home market with a 7.6% gain to 18% share. Renault (+2.3%) is more discreet and falls below the symbolic 20% share mark as a result while Citroen (-0.4%) inexplicably struggles even with the new C3 now in cruise control and the arrival of the C3 Aircross. It’s the second consecutive semester (and potentially second ever) below 10% for the carmaker that became famous with the original DS. Thanks to the new Duster and an ever-green Sandero, this year Dacia surges 20.8%, stepping up to a new dimension and overtaking Volkswagen to rank #4 overall for the first time in any half-year. In the private sales channels Dacia cements its third place below just Renault and Peugeot and above Citroen and, of course, Volkswagen. This is a stunning performance for a brand that was completely unknown by the entire French population only a little over a decade ago. Adequately, its 6.5% share and 77.700 volume are the highest 6-month results in the brand’s history in France with a new all-time record monthly share (7.5%) hit in April.

Fiat sales are up 19.7% year-on-year, prodded by the 500 and Panda.

Only Fiat (+19.7%) markedly outperforms the market in the remainder of the Top 10, wth Toyota (+5.1%) matching the overall growth, Volkswagen (+3.3%) trailing slightly and Nissan (-13.7%), Ford (-4.5%) and Opel (-4.2%) all receding. Just outside the Top 10, the 3 premium Germans are all in difficulty and see their order completely reshuffled. Mercedes (+0.8%) is now the most popular thanks to a meagre increase whereas BMW (-2.9%) remains in 2nd place and Audi (-13.7%) implodes. In contrast, Jeep (+37.1%), Hyundai (+25.6%), Skoda (+21.7%), DS (+20.1%), Kia (+19.6%), Suzuki (+18.8%) and Seat (+18.2%) all post very vigorous gains further down. Alpine (#34) confirms its renaissance with 384 sales of the new A110 over the period.

The Renault Clio is headed towards an 8th consecutive title of best-selling car in France.

Over in the models ranking, there is no surprise on top with the Renault Clio (+9%) headed towards an 8th consecutive annual win, the longest winning streak for any nameplate in France since the Renault 5 topped the annual charts for ten consecutive years from 1974 to 1983. The Clio even widens the gap with its eternal rival the Peugeot 208 (+3%). But below the two leaders, the ranking gets a good shake. The Peugeot 3008 soars 26% to land on the third step of the podium, a position it has already managed over the Full Year 2017. The 3008/5008 tandem was even the “unofficial” best-selling vehicle in France in January, February, April and May. Still reaping the added sales of the new generation, the Citroen C3 (+13%) leaps three spots to #4, overtaking the Renault Captur (+7%), Peugeot 2008 (-4%) and 308 (-7%) while the Dacia Sandero jumps 12% and two ranks to #6. The Sandero however remains by far the favourite choice of private buyers at almost 33.000 units (+10%) ahead of the Peugeot 208 over 28.000 (+18%) and the Renault Clio under 27.000 (+15%).

The Citroen C3 Aircross is the most popular new launch and marks 13 French nameplates in the Top 13.

But the best performer in the Top 10 is the Dacia Duster, propped up 46% by the new generation and up five spots to #9, making it two Dacias in a half-year Top 10 for the first time in French history. The Duster hasn’t ranked inside the French annual Top 10 since 2011 which was its only stint so far among the country’s ten favourites. The Duster also ranks 5th in the private sales ranking at +53% – that’s two Dacias in the private Top 5, a record. Below the Renault Scenic (-2%), Twingo (+27%) and Megane (-10%), the Citroen C3 Aircross lands directly at #13 with over 21.000 sales and 1.8% share. This means that counting Dacia as French because Renault-owned, there are 13 French nameplates in the Top 13 vs. 12 in the Top 12 over H1 and FY 2017. If held until the end of the year, this would be the strongest contingent of French nameplates since 1979 when the Top 15 best-sellers were French, the most popular foreigner then being the Golf at 2% share. This year, the #1 foreign car is once again the VW Polo (+0.2%) hardly up despite a brand new generation, ahead of the Toyota Yaris (+14%), Fiat 500 (+21%) and VW Golf (-1%).

The VW T-Roc directly lands inside the Top 30.

The VW T-Roc (#28) is the only other all-new nameplate in the Top 50, and is followed by the Opel Grandland X (#58), Seat Arona (#67), DS 7 Crossback (#70), Kia Stonic (#84) and Hyundai Kona (#86). The Opel Crossland X (+924%) celebrating just over one year in market, Renault Koleos (+203%), Peugeot 5008 (+163%), Ford Mondeo (+120%), Fiat Panda (+107%), Nissan Micra (+98%), Kia Picanto (+68%), Suzuki Swift (+61%), Ford Ecosport (+56%) and Mini Countryman (+55%) also perform greatly. Sales of light commercial vehicles outpace passenger cars at +5.1% over the First Half 2018 to 241.265 units. Distant brand leader Renault trails the market slightly at +3.1%, leading to a thawed share at 30.8% vs. 31.4% a year ago. Peugeot (+4.7%) matches the overall growth at 17.2% share while contrary to its passenger car performance, Citroen (+13.9%) is the most dynamic Big 3 French carmaker when it comes to LCV sales, seeing its share jump from 14.9% a year ago to 16.2% now.

The Citroen Jumpy LCV is up 11% year-on-year so far in 2018.

Fiat (+1.5%) easily remains the #1 foreign brand at 9.1% share, distancing Ford (+3.7%) while Mercedes (+9.6%) overtakes Volkswagen (-3%) to #6. The Renault Kangoo (-1%) and Clio (-1%) easily cement their lead despite declines while the Renault Master (+6%) and Citroen Berlingo (+18%) advance in the ranking to close up the Top 4. Other great performers include the Citroen Jumper (+20%), Peugeot Boxer (+18%), Peugeot Expert (+17%) and Citroen Jumpy (+11%). In the pickup truck aisle, the Ford Ranger (+11%) keeps the title of best-seller at #20 overall, distancing the Toyota Hilux (+7%) at #25. The Nissan NP300 (-8%) is in difficulty at #30 but the VW Amarok (+11%) and Isuzu D-Max (+24%) are all guns blazing as is the Renault Alaskan making its appearance at #54 vs. #63 over the Full Year 2017. The twins Mitsubishi L200 (-7%) and Fiat Fullback (-24%) decline.

Previous post: France June 2018: Renault, Dacia, Fiat lift market to 3rd largest monthly volume in history

One year ago: France First Half 2017: Market lifted up 3% by tactical sales

Full H1 2018 Top 40 brands, Top 270 models, Top 10 LCV brands and Top 100 LCV models below.

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France June 2018: Renault, Dacia, Fiat lift market to third largest monthly volume in history

Fiat is up 42.4% to hit its highest ranking in France this decade at #6

* Now updated with the Top 45 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales – click on title to see *

At +9.2% to 252.222 registrations in June, the French new car market posts a sixth consecutive year-on-year gain, its largest leap this year so far and, most impressively, a new all-time record for June – beating the 235.137 previous best established in 2009. It is also the largest outright monthly volume in two decades, the third largest monthly volume in history and only the third time the French market surpasses the quarter-million mark in a single month after July 1999 (292.625) and December 1988 (257.349). Satisfyingly, as it has been the case in 2018 this growth is relatively healthy, with private sales up 7.1% to 112.271 and company/government sales + leases up 12.5% to 56.263. Self-registrations by manufacturers sink 47.8% to 1.187, demo sales trail the market at +5% to 39.818 but short-term rental sales shoot up 33.7% to 32.193 as rental companies stock up for the summer holiday season. Diesel sales have stabilised at 40% of the market since March vs. 49% in June 2017.

Renault Twingo sales surge 62% year-on-year in June.

As is the tradition with the carmaker, Renault backloads its sales at the end of the quarter even more so this year at +12.4% to 23.6% share vs. 19.9% YTD. The is Renault’s highest share at home in two years, since the 25.1% hit in June 2016. The carmaker is particularly strong in the company/lease channel at a splendid +41% to 21.047 units, but also through typically artificial channels such as short-term rentals shooting up 86% to 9.437. Demo sales are also down (-4.2%) but remain high at 8.899. Reading through the lines, in fact private buyers have scolded the brand this month at a painful -15% to 16.820 units, only representing 28% of Renault’s June sales and frankly outsold by Peugeot (18.472) which is an impressive feat as end of periods are normally “owned” by Renault across all channels.

The 5008 (+41%) helps Peugeot up 4.6% in June at home.

Peugeot advances much more slowly at +4.6% to 17%, but its growth is somewhat healthier than Renault with private sales up 5.4% to top the market, even though demo sales (+12.7%) and short-term rental sales (+22.5%) are more dynamic. Finally feeling the benefits of the new C3 Aircross and C4 Cactus and with the C5 Aircross just hitting the market, Citroen records its first double-digit gain of the year at +11.1% to 9.7%, lifted by an exceptional performance with private buyers at +23.7% to 11.287.

Dacia ranks 4th brand overall for the 4th time this year.

Dacia at #4 overall above Volkswagen has become the new normal in 2018 (January, April, May and June) but it had only ever happened twice before this year: in March 2010 and August 2017. In June, the low-cost brand posts another spectacular 28.2% year-on-year gain to 6.6% share and remains #3 with private buyers above Citroen, up 24.5% to 12.522. Not that Volkswagen isn’t keeping up either: the German carmaker confirms it has no competition among foreign brands with deliveries up 19% to 6.3%, a dynamism spread across demo sales (+32%), short-term rentals (+31.3%) and private sales (+16.4%).

Seat is up 50.4% thanks mainly to its best-seller the Arona.

It’s however Fiat, at polar opposites from its paltry performance at home in Italy, that manages the largest gain in the Top 15 at +42.4%, hitting its highest monthly ranking this decade at #6, compared with #12 during the tail end of 2017 in both November and December. And for once, Fiat’s growth is healthy with private sales up 57%, helped by short-term rentals up 75% and demo sales up 10.7%. Toyota (+15.7%) also impresses in the remainder of the Top 10 while below, Seat (+50.4%), DS (+38.7%) thanks solely to the 7 Crossback (#38) representing 42% of the brand’s June deliveries, Kia (+30.3%), Skoda (+23.1%) and Volvo (+22.3%) make themselves noticed. At the other end of the scale, Ford (-21.6%), Nissan (-15.2%) as well as the Top 3 premium Germans Mercedes (-19.6%), BMW (-11.8%) and Audi (-4.5%) all endure painful falls.

The DS 7 Crossback is up to a record #38, pushing DS sales up 38.7% this month.

Propelled by backloaded artificial deliveries, the Renault Clio sails off at +19% to 7% share, that’s 60% above its long-term rival the Peugeot 208 (+7%). The Renault Captur(+11%) is back on the podium as it has been the case over the past five quarter ends, knocking the Peugeot 3008 (now plateauing at -1%) down to #4. The Renault Twingo (+62%), Dacia Duster (+29%), Sandero (+27%) and Citroen C3 (+19%) also frankly outpace the market near the top. The Citroen C3 Aircross drops one spot on May to #13 but remains by far the best-selling recent launch in France (<12 months) ahead of the VW T-Roc (#28), DS 7 Crossback (#38) and the Seat Arona (#55). Strong performers also include the Opel Crossland X (+178%), Fiat Panda (+117%), Kia Picanto (+101%), BMW X1 (+67%), Toyota C-HR (+55%), Renault Koleos (+47%) and Kangoo (+46%).

Previous month: France May 2018: Peugeot 3008 up to #2, Dacia Duster at highest in 4 years

One year ago: France June 2017: Peugeot 3008 up to #4, breaks market share record

Full June 2018 Top 45 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales below.

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China 2018 Photo Reports: The cars (and LSEVs) of Zhongwei, Ningxia

Outstanding local snacks and LSEVs: that’s the Zhongwei vibe for you.

This is Part 9 and the last iteration of our 2018 China exploration. You can check out Part 1: The cars of Beijing and using the Didi app herePart 2: Renting a car in China here, Part 3: The cars of Yinchuan, Ningxia province herePart 4: The cars of Bayanhot, Inner Mongolia herePart 5: The Gobi and Tengger deserts herePart 6: The cars of Alashan Youqi, Inner Mongolia herePart 7: The Badain Jaran desert here and Part 8: The cars of Jiayuguan, Gansu province here. For this last section we are headed back east towards Yinchuan where I must return my rental VW Lavida, and we stop on the way in Zhongwei in the Ningxia province, a full day, 750km (466mi) southeastern drive. Yinchuan is then a quick 200km (125mi) north.

After a near-miss, a providential servo and a Zhongwei hotel not quite used to English yet.

But first, drama almost strikes just before I arrive in Zhongwei after nightfall. Incorrect highway signage announcing one last petrol station that ended up not being completed yet means I almost run out of fuel after exiting the highway, as the “Around me” app on my phone failed me not once, but twice, leading me to venues where the actual petrol stations had long closed down and gone bust. So between the servos that weren’t there just yet, and the ones that had disappeared by the time I arrive, I watched the “Refuel soon” alarm on my rental Lavida go from a casual ICYMI alert to a “drop everything and feed me!” scream that monopolised my dashboard screen and anxiously wondered how many additional km I was allowed to drive “dry”. It all ended well with a providential servo inside Zhongwei.

Cars in the Shapotou parking lot included a yellow BAW Jeep and a pink VW Sagitar.

Shapotou is the reason why I stopped in Zhongwei. On paper, it sounds like a fantastic place: 17km (11mi) west of town, it lies on the fringes of the Tengger Desert at the dramatic convergence of sand dunes, the yellow river and lush farmlands. But in reality it’s a tourist circus with zip lines, overcrowded rafting “boats” and off-road buggy rentals. Very far from the calm and serenity of the Badain Jaran desert we visited a couple of days ago. I don’t stay long, and choose instead to snap pictures of the most interesting cars parked in the gigantic tourist parking lot.

Foton SUP, Great Wall Wingle 6 and Wuling Mini Truck in Zhongwei.

Although it is home to 1.041.821 inhabitants, Zhongwei remains a Tier 4 city – see an excellent Tier calculation explanation and complete map of all Chinese cities by the South China Morning Post here. This means a few things in terms of car landscape: Chinese carmakers have a strong dealership network here, local crossovers fuel the national surge we have seen in the past 5 years, pickup trucks remain the surefire choice in town and the most popular foreign manufacturers are the ones offering affordable options, not the premium Germans dominant in the largest cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Zhongwei taxis are mainly Skoda Rapid and VW Jetta.

We are now definitely back into civilisation with a large town and a strong need for cheap public transportation. The taxis are mainly Skoda Rapid – a first in the Chinese towns I have visited so far – and VW Jetta, and the Wuling Hongguang and other mini- and microvans are back atop the sales rankings, as is the Wuling Mini Truck whose popularity never really faded during this 2018 exploration, except in Bayanhot.

Nissan Kicks and Lifan Myway in Zhongwei

As expected local crossovers have convinced many buyers in town, with the Geely Vision SUV once again among the favourites – it has been in every city I visited, the FAW Besturn X40 being one other notable success here. The VW Bora is the favourite sedan in Zhongwei and the Chevrolet Cavalier has already established itself solidly here. Venucia as a brand is also strong here.

Red carpet for Traum and Geely at the mini Zhongwei pop up Auto Show…

But without a doubt the most interesting element of my Zhongwei visit is the mini pop up Auto Show that suddenly appeared in one of the town’s main street on the morning of my departure, complete with street food vendors – notably one of the local delicacies, a delicious spicy tofu. There were “traditional” carmakers, and the list is telling for a Tier 4 city such as Zhongwei: Traum, a new brand by Zotye which wasn’t at the Beijing Auto Show, and Geely the current #1 Chinese brand at home.

One of the main streets of Zhongwei was transformed into a mini pop up Auto Show when I visited.

However to me the most interesting element of this pop up Auto Show is the dominating presence of LSEV carmakers (Low-Speed Electric Vehicles). And it’s a great opportunity for us to start covering LSEVs on BSCB. Sales of LSEVs in China surged 79.1% from 688.000 units in 2015 to 1.232 million in 2017 and probably over 1.5 million in 2017, but these sales aren’t covered in the monthly statistics we publish on BSCB as these vehicles, which don’t require a driver licence to be operated, are not considered “real” cars. With a top speed traditionally limited to 50 to 60km/h (30-35 mph), LSEVs are not authorised to leave the city centres.

Yogomo 330, X350 and Han Tang brochure

Absent from the largest cities in the country, LSEVs are more and more frequent in smaller towns such as Alashan Youqi. Clearly, Zhongwei had been deemed a perfect breeding ground for LSEVs judging by their overwhelming presence in this pop up Auto Show. Note our Exclusive Guide does not currently include LSEV carmakers as it would add a staggering 50+ brands to the 174 currently active, but we do keep a close eye on LSEV makers as at least four of them have already “graduated” to so-called high-speed EVs such as Levdeo, Senyuan, Yogomo through the YGM brand and Zuojun.

Baoya Yabei and Levdeo D70

Among the LSEV carmakers present at the Zhongwei pop up Show were Levdeo which seems to stand out as one of the leaders in the category, showing its D70 hatch but also its V60 sedan and S50 crossover which aren’t LSEVs but high-speed EVs, Yogomo showing off its 330 and X340 hatches, Baoya propping no less than three examples of the Yabei. Here is the list of the 54 LSEV makers we have been able to compile to date: AGSEV, AIMA, Baoya (宝雅), Bidewen, Bodo, BYVIN, Conors, Dayang, Dexing, Dojo, Entu, Fulu, Henghe Fuxing, Hongdi, Hongri, Inmax, Jiayuan, Jijie Tule, Jingcai, Jinpeng, Jinxiang, Kaiyun, Levdeo, Lewei, Lichi, Lishededidong, Longqi, Luxing, Qianli, Qifeng, Qingqi, Rainchst, Rattle, Reiters, Sendi, Senyuan, Shaolin, Shenghao, Shifeng, SUNRA, Tieke, Today, T.R.P, Weikerui, Xinyuma, Xinyuzhou, Xuanyu, Xuzhou, Yadea, Yogomo (御捷), Zhonghui, Zhongjue,  Zhongxin and Zuojun.

The Haval H6 is one of the cars I was able to test drive in Yinchuan before flying back to Australia.

In the few hours I have between my return in Yinchuan and my flight back to Beijing I managed to test drive the Baojun 510, Haval H6 and Geely Boyue. See the Test Drive reports and videos here. We end the trip with my rental VW Lavida displaying 31.021 km on the odo, that’s 2.565 km (1.593 mi) in 6 days in what will remain my very first driving adventure in China, and hopefully the first of many to come. If you are wondering how it is possible to rent a car and drive (almost) anywhere in China as a foreigner, all the steps to do so are here. I hope you enjoyed exploring the lesser known parts of China with me this year, it’s over for this year but we will take it where we left it in 2019 for the Shanghai Auto Show. 谢谢你,再见! Xiexie Ni, Zaijian! Thank you and good bye!

China 2018 Photo Reports: The cars of Jiayuguan, Gansu province

Geely Vision SUV in Jiayuguan, Gansu province

This is Part 8 of our 2018 China exploration. You can check out Part 1: The cars of Beijing and using the Didi app herePart 2: Renting a car in China here, Part 3: The cars of Yinchuan, Ningxia province herePart 4: The cars of Bayanhot, Inner Mongolia herePart 5: The Gobi and Tengger deserts herePart 6: The cars of Alashan Youqi, Inner Mongolia here and Part 7: The Badain Jaran desert here. For this next iteration we leave the desertic regions of Western Inner Mongolia and travel 350km south-west to Jiayuguan in the Gansu province.

Our itinerary from Alashan Youqi to Jiayuguan, the only Lynk & Co 01 of the trip

To reach the Gansu province from the Badain Jaran desert we must first zig zag down a barrier of mountains where goats happily roam the highway. Then, it’s a high speed valley all the way through a lunar landscape. It’s on this highway that I spotted the only Lynk & Co 01 I would see in my ten days in China. You can check out my exclusive test drive of the Lynk & Co 02 here. On the way back from Jiayuguan to Yinchuan to the east, I also scored my very first Chinese speed ticket!

The Jiayuguan Fort

Jiayuguan is located at the western extremity of the Great Wall of China – you can see our 2013 exploration of the Badaling section of Great Wall located near Beijing here. The main attraction in town and one of the classic images of Western China is the grandiose Jiayuguan Fort, dating from the Ming dynasty and built out of tamped earth in 1372. It stands like a full stop at the end of the Great Wall. Then, it was seen by the Chinese as the last outpost of civilisation, beyond which lay barbarian country reserved to banished criminals. The fort thus gives the town a very significant strategic importance, even if outdated.

English translations err on the romantic side in Jiayuguan Fort.

Exploring it confirms the imposing nature of the structure, and a clean and pure architectural style, as well as very well restored buildings following a refurbishment in 2015. But what makes the location awe-inspiring is its surroundings, with a horizon of snowy mountains overhanging in the distance. There are no cars to be observed in the close vicinity of the fort as it is a pedestrian-only area, but I still found a way to amuse myself with a couple of approximative English translations of warning signs, probably word-for-word from Mandarin, revealing the romantic nature of the Chinese language…

FAW Xiali N7, FAW Senya R7, Leopaard CS10 and Wuling Mini Truck in Jiayuguan.

Notwithstanding its cultural significance, Jiayuguan is also a relatively sizeable town of 231.000 inhabitants, however in China this doesn’t lift the town higher than Tier 4 level, the lowest of all Tiers. See an excellent Tier calculation explanation by the South China Morning Post here. This Tier level dictates which carmakers operate in town, strongly skewed towards Chinese brands such as Leopaard, Great Wall, FAW and Wuling, relatively rare in the largest cities in the country.

Haval H6, Haval H9 and Changan CS55 in Jiayuguan.

As it is the case in almost all secondary Chinese towns we have visited in the past 5 years, SUVs are the visible engine of growth in Jiayuguan. Changan is particularly strong in town with its CS75 SUV and its sedan lineup as well as the Chana CX70. Contrary to the previous regions we have visited this year, the success of the Haval H6 in Jiayuguan hasn’t really spread towards the rest of the brand’s lineup, except perhaps the H9. Also of note are the Haima S5 and Geely Vision SUV.

Hyundai Elantra and VW Santana taxis, Maxus T60 in Jiayuguan.

Hyundai (Tucson, ix25, new ix35) and Kia (KX3) seem to be the most popular foreign carmakers below Volkswagen. In fact, the taxis of Jiayuguan are mainly various generations of Hyundai Elantra and VW Santana. Pickups remain dominant in town with the Wingle still topping the charts but it is much less frequent than in Bayanhot and Alashan Youqi in neighbouring Inner Mongolia. The novelty is the stream of obscure pickups: JMC, JMCG and JAC brands are frequent.

Geely Vision in a service area, and my rental VW Lavida near the overhanging Great Wall in Jiayuguan.

Confirming our observations in the more remote areas of this exploration, as soon as we return to more densely populated regions, the Wuling Hongguang reclaims its rank near or at the top of the local charts as it is used as an intercity mini bus. The Wuling Mini Truck, a mini pickup derived from the Rongguang microvan, however has my vote as the best-seller in Jiayuguan, a city focused on manufacturing and small businesses which is the perfect environment for this type of vehicles.

Stay tuned for the last iteration of our 2018 Chinese exploration ending in Zhongwei, still in the Gansu province. 

China 2018 Photo Reports: The Badain Jaran desert, Inner Mongolia

This is the Badain Jaran desert in Inner Mongolia.

This is Part 7 of our 2018 China exploration. You can check out Part 1: The cars of Beijing and using the Didi app herePart 2: Renting a car in China here, Part 3: The cars of Yinchuan, Ningxia province herePart 4: The cars of Bayanhot, Inner Mongolia herePart 5: The Gobi and Tengger deserts here and Part 6: The cars of Alashan Youqi, Inner Mongolia here. After exploring the car landscape of Alashan Youqi, we are now headed deep into the sand dunes of the Badain Jaran desert, without out a doubt one of the most stunningly beautiful places I ever got the luck to visit in the entire world.

Badain Jaran Temple lake approach and satellite view of the myriads of lakes in the desert.

Mostly unknown to the rest of the world, the Badain Jaran desert is one of the natural wonders of this planet as far as I am concerned. In Chinese, the desert is called 巴丹吉林沙漠, pronounced Bādānjílín Shāmò, but it comes from a Mongolian expression meaning mysterious lakes. Indeed, the one characteristic that makes this desert unique in the world is the more than 140 lakes peppered throughout its southern part, visible on Google Map imagery (see above).

The large lakes are nested within sand dunes “valleys”.

The explanation as to why there are so many lakes in the middle of one of the driest deserts in the world has long been, well, as its Mongolian name suggests, a mystery and is still debated today. The belief nowadays is that the they are fuelled by a vast underground reservoir replenished by snow melting on the northern Tibetan plateau to the south of the desert, notably the Qilian Mountain in the neighbouring Gansu province. This is where the debate resides as some Chinese scientists have suggested tapping this reservoir for drinkable water. Mike Edmunds, research director of the Oxford Centre for Water Research in the UK says the source of the numerous lakes is fossil water and there is no evidence that the water levels are being topped up by melting snow – which could indicate the lakes are ultimately doomed.

Other-worldly landscapes in the Badain Jaran desert

The contrast between the deep blue hues of the lakes, the green ring of vegetation around them and the towering dune cliffs makes for unbelievable scenery, heightened by the silence only broken by the cries of birds circling above. Magical. I try to search my memories to find a similar place in the world and I’m hard pressed to see anything, except perhaps the Nile valley in Egypt that in a handful of areas had a comparable mix of high sand dunes, water and greenery all in the same place.

The Badain Jaran sports some of the tallest sand dunes in the world.

Covering an area of 49.000 square kilometres (19.000 sq mi), the Badain Jaran desert is home to the tallest stationary dune in the world, Bilutu Peak at 500m high (1.600ft) from the base, which is taller than the Empire State Building. This is a real sand dune desert similar to the Sahara in northern Africa, with the dunes averaging a whopping 200m (660ft). There are also so-called mega dunes averaging 400m (1.300ft) and these ones are stationary and made of solidified sand underneath with only the top layer of sand shifting. The smaller dunes are constantly shifting according to wind patterns, which makes desertification a problem as the Badain Jaran desert is progressively merging with the Tengger desert to the east as we showed in the previous iteration of this 2018 Chinese exploration.

Driving through the desert

How did I get to explore the Badain Jaran desert? As it is basically hardcore sand dune driving all the way, access to the desert is strictly regimented and as a private person I can only explore these magnificent landscapes with a rented 4×4 and driver. Even though Alashan Youqi is the base for the exploration of the Badain Jaran, organising a 4×4 for the same day proved a little bit of a challenge as the region has not yet cottoned on to international tourists (for the better!). I did manage to organise one from town though, but at 2000 yuan (255€ or US$299), it seemed a tad overpriced and I had the distinct feeling of getting ripped off. I would be proved wrong, so wrong.

My driver Yung Run

At the spectacular tourist info center at the entrance of the desert 75km (50mi) north-east of Alashan Youqi, I gingerly ask whether it’s possible to take the wheel of the 4WD at some point to hone in my (poor) sand driving skills. A curt and definitive “No!” cut short all my hopes. And indeed, repeatedly climbing and descending 200m+ dunes at full speed isn’t yet part of my skillset and in hindsight I was actually glad this opportunity wasn’t allowed to me… Yung Run my driver is from Mongolian descent and does not speak English, but the tourist receptionist thought of everything: “You won’t be able to use your online translator in the desert as there is no wifi signal, so please let me know of any requests before you leave”.

Open gate to the desert!

Good idea. I have two requests: I want to see the tallest stationary sand dune in the world, the Bilutu Peak, as well as the incredible Badain Jaran Temple lost in the middle of the desert. “No problem!” And off we go. Our workhorse for the exploration is a bruised and battered Toyota Land Cruiser 80 that has seen many a dune indeed. Yung Run steadfast refuses to turn the ignition on as long as I haven’t buckled up my seatbelt and would repeat the endearing manoeuvre each time we stop for me to take snaps which is many dozen times in the next five hours.

Bitulu Peak (pics 1 and 3) and the cars of the Badain Jaran desert.

The Bitulu Peak turns out to be underwhelming: it is surrounded by dunes almost as high and therefore isn’t really giving the impression of grandeur I was expecting. Never mind, the lake directly down from it is arguably the most beautiful in the entire desert so I make the best of our break to snap every inch of landscape that is opening up before my eyes. At first I had asked the driver to stop there so I could climb the dune. But it’s shaped more like a mountain with a relatively gentle but long slope (in dry, deep sand) and the climb looks like it would take hours so no climb it is. It is there that we first encounter the contestants in a 3-rally geolocalisation amateur 4WD rally headed, like us, towards the Badain Jaran temple. Interestingly, the participating cars include only a few nameplates, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, Prado and FJ Cruiser as well as the Beijing BJ40.

Badain Jaran Temple

One does not get to the Badain Jaran Temple, one deserves it. It is a 100km (60mi) 5-hour return trip of continuous hardcore sand dune 4WD driving to reach it, and its isolation explains why it is so well maintained: “protected” by a barrier of desert, it escaped the Mao purges that destroyed almost all Buddhist temples in the country. The full contingent of the 3-day desert rally was there complete with drones when I visited which dampened my enthusiasm a little, but I enjoyed exchanging experiences with the one couple that spoke English. All-in-all, the price I paid blind before getting there turned out to be well worth it. Apart from a couple of venues, we basically had the desert to ourselves for five hours. I do warmly recommend it, but shyly, as a massive affluence of tourists would ruin the experience…

Stay tuned for the next iteration of our China exploration to the Jiayuhuan Fort.

Czech Republic June 2018: Kodiaq and Duster impress in declining market

Skoda Kodiaq sales are up 78% year-on-year in the Czech Republic in June.

* See the Top 45 All-brands and Top 275 All-models by clicking on the title *

The Czech new car market endures a 6th year-on-year decline in the past 8 months in June at -2.6% to 25.932 units, pulling the year-to-date volume into negative territory at -0.5% to 143.784 registrations, still the second largest H1 volume in Czech history below the 144.451 of last year. Homegrown brands leader Skoda resists better than the market at -1% to 32.5% share vs. 32.7% YTD, while Volkswagen (+7%) and Dacia (+5%) actually post gains near the top. Hyundai (-17%) and Ford (-13%) complete the Top 5 with paltry performances whereas Peugeot (+28%) and Kia (+15%) post the largest gains in the Top 10. Below, great performers include Lexus (+110%), Ferrari (+100%), Porsche (+85%), Suzuki (+48%), Jeep (+33%) and Volvo (+21%).

Over in the models ranking, Skoda holds the Top 5 spots like it does year-to-date but with one small difference: if the Octavia (-5%), Fabia (-16%), Rapid (+18%) and Superb (-23%) hold onto their traditional positions, in June it’s the Kodiaq (+78%) that remains in 5th place while its smaller brother the Karoq is down one spot on May to #8 but remains in 5th place so far in 2018. The Hyundai i30 (-18%) remains the best-selling foreign nameplate in the Czech Republic despite a stiff year-on-year drop, and is followed this month by the Dacia Duster (+72%), VW Golf (-10%), VW Tiguan (+141%) and Kia Cee’d (+20%). The VW T-Roc (#49), Ford Ecosport (#52), Kia Stonic (#58) and Hyundai Kona (#60) are the next best-selling recent launches.

Previous month: Czech Republic May 2018: Skoda Rapid up, 5th decline in past 7 months

One year ago: Czech Republic June 2017: Dacia up 54%, H1 market up 8.8% to all-time record

Full June 2018 Top 45 All-brands and Top 275 All-models below.

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Finland June 2018: Nissan (+39%), Hyundai (+114%) pull market up 6.7%

The Micra (+120%) and Qashqai (+39%) help Nissan up 39% in Finland in June.

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

The Finnish new car market gains a solid 6.7% year-on-year in June to 11.374 registrations, lifting the year-to-date volume up 7.8% to 68.573. Volkswagen (-3%) edges past Toyota (-5%) for just 16 units with Skoda (-3%) the third manufacturer above 10% share for the month. Ford (-1%) pulls the entire Top 4 into negative territory, while Nissan (+39%), Opel (+17%) and BMW (+14%) post the largest improvements in the Top 10. Below, Hyundai (+114%), Peugeot (+97%), Honda (+81%), Dacia (+79%), Lexus (+76%), Citroen (+74%), Seat (+74%), Mitsubishi (+67%) and Subaru (+64%) all score spectacular gains within the Top 25. Model-wise, the Skoda Octavia (-13%) and Nissan Qashqai (+39%) reclaim the Top 2 spots they hold YTD with the May leader the VW Golf (-1%) back down to #3. Toyota complete the Top 5 with the Auris (-11%) and Yaris (+32%). The Citroen C3 (+182%), Hyundai i30 (+140%), Nissan Micra (+120%), Toyota RAV4 (+48%),  Mercedes GLC (+47%) and Hyundai i20 (+43%) also impress in the Top 30.

Previous month: Finland May 2018: VW Golf best-seller for 1st time in 19 months

One year ago: Finland June 2017: Skoda Octavia leads, Toyota Auris up to #2

Full June 2018 Top 30 brands and models below.

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Taiwan June 2018: Toyota Corolla back to #1, Honda up 50%

The CR-V (+489%) helps Honda up 50% in Taiwan in June.

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and Top 80 models by clicking on the title *

The Taiwanese new car market slides down 5.5% year-on-year in June to 37.889 registrations, but the year-to-date tally remains in the black at +2.6% to 222.194 units. Only 3 of the Top 10 best-selling manufacturers manage a year-on-year gain in June, with Honda (+50%) being by far the most impressive and Lexus (+10%) and Volkswagen (+2%) following at a distance. Both market leaders Toyota and Mitsubishi/CMC drop a hefty 13%, BMW is down 14% and Ford implodes an estimated 36%. Mercedes (-2%), Mazda (-5%) and Nissan/Infiniti (-6%) see more measured drops. After losing the top spot for the first time since September 2013 last month, the Toyota Corolla reclaims its place under the Taiwanese sun in June despite deliveries hit a steep 37%. Victorious in May, the Honda CR-V (+489%) remains strong in 2nd place while Toyota monopolises the remainder of the Top 5 like last month with the RAV4 (-13%), Sienta (-10%) and Yaris (+2%). Notice also the Toyota C-HR up 269% to #15, the Mazda CX-3 up 23% to #20 and the Skoda Karoq landing directly at #65.

Previous month: Taiwan May 2018: Honda CR-V best-seller, Mercedes C-Class in Top 10

Previous year: Taiwan Full Year 2017: Toyota and Corolla lead, Honda up 25%

Full June 2018 Top 10 brands and Top 80 models below.

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Barcelona (Spain) Full Year 2017: Seat standout leader

Seat is the most popular manufacturer “at home” in Barcelona.

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

This is a new update on BSCB, a quick look at what the most popular car brands are in Barcelona, the country’s second largest city after Madrid, with 1.454.000 inhabitants, where new car sales are reportedly up 8% in 2017. Aniacam data shows new car sales in Cataluña where Barcelona is located are up 6.9% year-on-year in 2017 to 191.731 units vs. +9.7% and 403.616 for Madrid, so the figure for Barcelona itself should be slightly less. In any case, whereas it ranks #2 nationally, the stand-out leader in Barcelona is homegrown Seat with a gap of almost 5.000 units over the #2, Volkswagen. Toyota brilliantly takes the third step of the podium vs. #8 in Spain overall, distancing Peugeot, Nissan (#5 vs. #9) and the poor performer in town: Renault, down from #1 nationally to a paltry 6th place in Barcelona. If Ford (#7) and Kia (#10) repeat their national ranking, Audi and Fiat replace Opel and Citroen inside the Top 10.

Full Year 2017 Top 10 brands ranking with volumes vs. Spain Full Year 2017 volumes below.

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London (UK) First Half 2018: Ford Fiesta holds onto #1, Audi A3 up to #4

The Audi A3 is up to #4 in London. Picture autoexpress.co.uk

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

One of the most recent market additions on BSCB gets a H1 2018 update thanks to our partnership with SMMT. We labelled it London for easy reading, but the area covered is actually Greater London. New car sales in the area dive 4.3% year-on-year to 47.462 units vs. -3.5% in the UK overall. Toppled by the VW Golf in 2017, the Ford Fiesta is back in charge in London albeit with a thin 62 unit-advantage after 3 months while the Nissan Qashqai rounds up the podium as it was already the case over Q1. Below, the ranking order gets a good shake: the Audi A3 gains two spots to #4 whereas it doesnt rank inside the UK Top 10 over the period, the Mini is also up two vs. Q1 to #5 and the VW Polo is up three to #7. In contrast, the Toyota Yaris is down two to #6 and the Mercedes A-Class is down four to #9.

Previous post: London (UK) Q1 2018: Ford Fiesta #1, Mercedes A-Class up to #5

Previous year: London (UK) Full Year 2017: VW Golf dethrones Ford Fiesta

Full H1 2018 Top 10 models ranking below.

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