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Europe March 2016: Opel Astra and Fiat 500 shine in Top 10

Opel Astra Europe March 2016The new generation pushes the Opel Astra up 30% year-to-date in Europe. 

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March sales data in Europe is always biased by a bumper month in the UK where the bi-annual license-plate change traditionally boosts the market. This year, with 518.707 registrations, the UK accounts for 29.7% of all European sales vs. 18.5% on average. Europe posts a 31st consecutive month of year-on-year gains in March with registrations up 6% to 1.745.495 units, lifting the Q1 total up a solid 8% to 3.934.569. Among the 29 countries composing the European market, Serbia (+34%), Portugal (+32%), Cyprus (+31%), Lithuania (+28%), Latvia (+26%) and Romania (+23%) are the most dynamic whereas Germany (-0.04%), Spain (-1%), Norway (-2%), Greece (-3%), Denmark (-4%) and Switzerland (-9%) are the only ones losing ground. Three of the Big Five are in positive: the UK (+6%), France (+7%) and Italy (+18%).

Fiat 500 Europe March 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Fiat 500 benefits from a very strong performance in the UK this month.

Brand-wise, Volkswagen continues to clearly underperform: the only brand in the Top 10 losing volume  year-on-year (-2%) along with Nissan (-4%). More worryingly, VW drops one percentage point market share compared to a year ago over Q1 2016, going from 12% to 11% and a particularly low 10.3% in March, its lowest since last September when the emissions scandal broke. Yet Volkswagen remains by far Europe’s favourite brand, topping the sales charts in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland. Below Ford stable at #2, Opel (+7%) and Renault (+11%) outperform the market but Peugeot is shy at +2%.

BMW 2er Gran Tourer Europe March 2016. Picture courtesy autobild.deThe 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer enables BMW to tease Audi for the #1 luxury spot this month.

After outselling Audi in the luxury race last year in August, September, November and December, BMW misses out on doing just that again this month by just 51 units. Thanks to the outstanding success of its 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer, BMW sees its volumes leap 16% to 94.819, just below Audi at 94.875 (+8%). Mercedes is up 9% to 90.704. Rounding up the Top 10, Fiat (+13%) is in great shape but Nissan (-4%) disappoints. In the models ranking, the Top 7 best-sellers all post muted scores: not only do they all lose market share vs. a year ago, they also drop volumes all in unison: the VW Golf (-0.2%) and Polo (-0.1%) are the strongest while the Ford Fiesta and Opel Corsa (-11% each) suffer the most. The Nissan Qashqai (-2%), Renault Clio (-5%) and Ford Focus (-5%) haven’t taken advantage of strong scores in their respective lead countries, the UK and France.

Renault Kadjar Nissan Qashqai Europe March 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Kadjar helps Renault gain 11% year-on-year in March. 

In contrast, the Fiat 500 makes a rare appearance inside the European Top 10 thanks to a strong performance in the UK with 25.794 sales across the continent (+12%). It is only the 4th time ever this generation of 500, launched in 2007, manages to rank among Europe’s ten favourites after March 2014, June 2014 and September 2014 (see also Europe March 2014: Fiat 500 inside Top 10 for the first time). Re-energised by a much awaited new generation, the Opel Astra is up 18% to #9 and up 30% year-to-date to #8, now back to a more familiar #2 ranking in its category across the continent (far) below just the Golf at 61.478 sales vs. 130.367. Notice also the Skoda Octavia (+8%), Peugeot 308 (+6%), Fiat Panda (+6%) and Peugeot 2008 (+14%).

Previous post: Europe February 2016: Discover the Top 335 models and All-brands

Previous month: Europe February 2016: 30th consecutive month of year-on-year gains

One year ago: Europe March 2015: Relief as continent-wide sales jump 11%

Full March 2016 Top 10 brands and Top 20 models below.

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