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Brazil Full Year 2014: Fiat Palio ends 19 years of VW Gol reign

Fiat Palio Way Brazil 2014. Picture courtesy of imguol.comFiat Palio Way

* See the Top 15 best-selling brands and Top 200 models by clicking on the title *

After a decade of uninterrupted growth taking the Brazilian new light vehicle market from 1.35 million units in 2003 to 3.65 million in 2012, 2014 marks the 2nd consecutive year of recession with sales down a harsh 7% to 3,328,716. Social unrest in the lead up to the Soccer World Cup and presidential elections have destabilised the market for most of the year, however 2015 looks brighter with December sales up 5%. Fiat stays atop the brands ranking with 21% share, for the first time holding a larger market share in Brazil than at home in Italy (20.7%) – a very impressive feat indeed. Chevrolet leapfrogs Volkswagen thanks to sales less affected by the recession (-11% vs. -14%). Hyundai and Toyota both gain 11% and one percentage point to 7.1% and 5.9% respectively, but the award of ‘most improved’ brand goes without contest to Audi: up a flamboyant 87% year-on-year to a record 12,486 sales. Mercedes (+18%) and BMW (+7%) also fare very well while Chery (+18%) passes JAC (-47%) to reclaim the title of most popular Chinese brand in Brazil.

Fiat Palio VW Gol Brazil 2014. Picture courtesy of Fiat Palio beats the VW Gol in Brazil for the first time since launch in 1997.

In 1997 Fiat launched the Palio with the sole aim of dislodging the VW Gol from its Brazilian pole position, and had failed to do so up until this year. New environmental laws in place early in the year meant Volkswagen had to discontinue the previous generation bare bones Gol whereas Fiat managed to keep the Palio Way, now the cheapest new car on the Brazilian market. This was fatal to Gol sales and Volkswagen inexplicably waited until November to launch the Gol Special to compete with the Palio Way. Too little too late and thanks to 6 consecutive months in pole position and sales up 4% in a shaky market, the Palio finally edges the VW Gol off and claims the title of best-selling car in Brazil in 2014. The finish line was extremely close though: just 385 units at 183,741 vs. 183,356 for the Gol (-28%). The Palio ends an incredible 19 straight years of VW Gol reign: the last time the Gol did not rank #1 in Brazil was exactly 20 years ago in 1994 when in a strikingly similar occurrence the Fiat Uno beat it by just 486 units.

Fiat Strada Uruguay June 2014The Fiat Strada topped the overall sales charts for the first time in March.

In fact, this is only the 2nd time in the past 28 years and the 4th time in the past 30 years that the VW Gol isn’t the most popular vehicle in Brazil: it also ranked #1 from 1987 to 1993, with the Chevrolet Monza #1 in 1985 and 1986. Demonstrating the extraordinary inertia in Brazilian car buyers’ purchase patterns, the Palio is only the 6th nameplate to hold the best-seller title in the past 60 years after the VW Fusca (19541980), Fiat 147 (19811983), Chevrolet Monza (1984-1986), Fiat Uno (1994) and VW Gol, making Fiat the only manufacturer to have placed 3 different nameplates in the annual Brazilian top spot.

The third place illustrates a recent trend in Brazil: similarly to what has happened in the past couple of decades in the USA and in the past 10 years in Australia and South Africa, pickup trucks are not confined to commercial use anymore and are becoming lifestyle vehicles, a valid alternative to SUVs. The Fiat Strada leads the segment with sales up a mind-boggling 25% on 2013 to a record 155,130 units and 4.6% share vs. 3.5% and #7 in 2013. The Strada even led the overall models ranking for the first time in the nameplate’s history in March – the first time a pickup was #1 in Brazil and broke its monthly volume record in September at 14,225 units.

Chevrolet Onix Brazil October 2014. Picture courtesy of Chevrolet Onix outsold the VW Gol for 3 straight months this year.

The Chevrolet Onix is equally impressive in 4th place with sales up 23% to 150,829 units. It improved steadily all throughout the year and managed to outsell the VW Gol for 3 consecutive months between September and November, breaking its monthly volume record twice to bring it to 17,951 in December. If the Palio had to wait 18 years to access the annual #1 spot, the Onix may only need a couple of years and starts 2015 as a strong pretender to the throne. The Hyundai HB20 plateaued in 2014 (-2%) but gains 3 spots to rank #6.

VW Kombi Last Edition Brazil February 2014In 2014 the VW Kombi ended a production run that was uninterrupted since 1950.

Outside the Top 10, notice the remarkable progressions of the Chevrolet Prisma (+44%), Hyundai HB20S (+69%), Renault Logan (+102%), Ford Ka (+67%), Nissan Sentra (+111%) and Chevrolet Tracker (+493%), all either boosted by a new generation or in their first full year in market. The VW Up is without contest the most successful newcomer at #16 and 59,000 sales, undoubtedly giving nightmares to the Gol, followed by the Fiat Weekend (a renaming of the Palio Weekend) at #72, the Ford Ka Sedan at #75 and the Audi A3 Sedan at #106. The Lifan X60 is up 135% to become the only Chinese model in the Top 100 and we say goodbye to the VW Kombi (-83% to #90) whose production ended after 64 years of service.

Chevrolet Montana Brazil 2014The Chevrolet Montana is a hit with fleet buyers.

I can also share with you for the first time exclusive fleet and private sales models ranking for 2014, keeping in mind in Brazil fleet sales include sales to companies and public organisations. The Fiat Strada is king here with 106,525 units sold, with the VW Saveiro ranking #4, the VW Voyage up to #6, Chevrolet Montana up to #7 vs. #22 overall, Renault Duster up to #8 (vs. #21) and Chevrolet S10 at #10 vs. #19. The Fiat Palio dominates the private sales ranking with a 75% PS ratio and 137,712 units ahead of the Chevrolet Onix at 130,500 and the Hyundai HB20 at 102,000.

Previous post: Brazil December 2014: VW Gol back to #1… too late

Previous year: Brazil Full Year 2013: Chevrolet Onix edges Hyundai HB20 out

Two years ago: Brazil 2012: VW Gol celebrates 25 years at #1, Fiat Palio on podium

Full Year 2014 Top 15 brands and Top 200 models vs. Full 2013 figures below.

Exclusive: Top 15 fleet and Top 10 private sales models below.

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