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Persisting recession in Russia, partly triggered by the Ukraine-related economic sanctions imposed to the country, has seen the ruble crumble down 23% against the dollar in the past year, inflation rise up and household purchasing power implode. The Russian new car market has only seen two months of growth in the past 34 and posts in November its 11th consecutive year-on-year decline – its steepest so far in 2015 – at -43% to just 131.572 units vs. 229.432 a year ago. The combined effect of an unusually strong result in November last year when consumers rushed to buy a car and get ahead of widely – and rightly – anticipated new year price increases has made the decline even sharper this month. Lada (-29%) and Kia (-32%) gain marginal share by losing less ground than the market but Hyundai is the real winner with sales down just 7% and a market share going from 7% a year ago to 11.5% this month.
Below, Renault (-46%), Toyota (-53%) and Nissan (-53%) lose share while Volkswagen (-32%) and Skoda (-39%) gain some, showing no particular impact from its emission scandal. Lifan (+3%), Brilliance (+4%) and Cadillac (+21%) are the only Top 40 carmakers to post positive results in November, while Daewoo (-13%), Audi, UAZ (-18%), Lexus (-23%), Mercedes and Porsche (-24%) post relatively limited declines. On the other hand Mitsubishi (-74%), Citroen (-78%), Peugeot (-79%), Chery (-80%), Suzuki (-81%), Jeep (-87%), Honda (-90%), Ssangyong (-91%) and Great Wall (-94%) all but disappear. Chevrolet (-71%) and Opel (-92%) will actually withdraw from the Russian market from 2016 onwards so their respective declines are logical. But there are bigger events unfolding in the models ranking…
One year ago, the Kia Rio send shockwaves through the Russian market: for the first time since the first Lada model hit dealerships of the then-USSR in 1970, a foreign model managed to top the monthly sales ranking in Russia: the Rio historically outsold the Lada Granta with 10.834 sales vs. 10.520. In the space of just one year, a foreign model dominating Russian car sales has become all too common. If the Kia Rio may not have managed to repeat its win, the Hyundai Solaris took charge no less than 7 times in the past 11 months. In November, the Solaris lodges a 5th consecutive month in pole position, even gaining 13% year-on-year to almost double its market share from 4.4% a year ago to a record 8.7% this month, and also delivering an all-time high monthly volume of 11.462.
The advantage the Solaris has over the Granta in November (2.462 sales) is greater than the gap that separates it from the year-to-date pole position (2.144) with the Solaris adding up to 106.509 units after 11 months vs. 108.653 for the Granta. The past five months are clearly to the advantage of the Solaris with a monthly average of 10.561 sales vs. 9.016 for the Granta, yet it would need to beat that average to be able to finish the year #1. Mathematically and theoretically, the Solaris could indeed edge past the Granta in-extremis during the last few days of the year and post a historical annual foreign win in Russia, something that has never happened since records began 45 years ago. It remains to be seen however whether Lada will let that happen, may it cost a few anticipated registrations to secure the title to Russian ground.
One element going against the Granta is Lada now focussing its energy on its “renaissance” models: the Vesta compact sedan and the XRAY crossover. A brand new model is a rare occurrence for Lada: the last one was the Granta almost four years ago in January 2012 – the Largus, launched in July 2012, is in fact a rebadged Dacia Logan MPV – so two at once is a momentous even for the Russian carmaker. The Vesta, unveiled as a concept in August 2014, is the first Lada to be launched only 12 months after concept. Production kick-started as announced on September 25 in Izhevsk, 1.200 km east of Moscow, with 60% of components produced in another plant (Togliatti).
Sales of the Vesta officially started on November 25 but pre-sales to dealerships allowed the nameplate to make its grand entrance within the Russian Top 20 this month at #19 with 1.748 units. The Vesta starts at 514k Rubles (US$ 7.400) for the Classic trim, but will initially only be available in Comfort (570k Rub – $8.200) and Luxe (608k – $8.800) in 60 dealerships in 25 cities across the country for now. This makes the Vesta the most expensive Lada on sale, with the Priora starting at 420k Rub, the 4×4 at 395k Rub and the Granta at 312k Rub. See more detail on Lada pricing here. It also positions the Vesta full frontal agains the Solaris and Rio with larger dimensions. The Lada XRAY crossover, based on the Renault Sandero, will also enter the sales charts imminently.
In other models news, the VW Polo is up a brilliant 15% in 4th place, the Lada Priora shoots back up 9 spots on last month to #9 despite sales down 33% year-on-year, the Skoda Rapid is up five ranks to break its Russian ranking record at #11 (previous best: #13 last April), the Kia Sportage is up 7 to #13, the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 makes a second ever appearance inside Russia’s Top 25 after landing at #21 in March, reaching a best-ever #20 thanks to stable sales at 1.744 units and the VW Jetta posts its first Top 25 ranking of the year at #25.
Full November 2015 Top 50 All-brands and Top 25 models below.