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France July 2018: Two more days, artificial sales boost market up 18.9%

The DS 7 Crossback represents 50.6% of the brand’s sales in France in July.

* Now updated with the Top 40 brands, Top 270 models and Top 10 private sales *

Helped by two additional selling days vs. July 2017, the French new car market advances by a stunning 18.9% year-on-year this month to 175.396 registrations, registering its 7th consecutive year-on-year uplift, the 14th gain in the past 15 months and lifting the year-to-date volume up 6.3% to 1.363.546 units. That’s the 4th highest 7-month volume in history in France behind 1990 (1.430.556), 2001 (1.412.749) and 2011 (1.385.029). The spectacular July gain is the largest year-on-year improvement French new car sales have experienced since May 2016 (+22%), even if the growth adjusted for daily rates is a much lower but still robust +8.1%. All channels grow strongly this month but private sales trail the market slightly at +15.5% to return below the symbolic 50% mark at 49.7% vs. 51.1% a year ago. Short-term rental sales surge 30%, company sales including long term rentals are up 20.7% but the manufacturers’ favourite “fake” channel, demo and dealer sales, traditionally used to pad monthly deliveries, are sadly the most dynamic at +32.7% giving the month a definite artificial flavour.

The Peugeot 3008 (#3) has never been so close to the monthly pole position in France.

Let’s also not forget the impact the new Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP, all the necessary info is here) is having on registrations across Europe. This is particularly true in France where a “bonus/malus” system is in place, which removes or adds a sometimes very significant amount to the selling price of each car depending on its emissions, and the local press is stressing the fact that almost all vehicles sold in France are likely to see their price increase as a result of the WLTP implementation on September 1. This way, many fleet operators and dealerships themselves are purchasing cars now in order to avoid the likely steep increase in a couple of months and, in the case of dealerships, to be able to sell these cars as 0km without the WLTP added tax. So as much as I would have loved to declare the 18.9% gain in French sales is due to World Cup victory-induced euphoria, it is not really the case so far.

The Citroen C3 Aircross breaks its ranking record at home at #9…

For the fourth time this year (already a record) after January, February and April, Peugeot is the most popular carmaker at home despite gaining less ground than the market at +15.7% to 17.5% share vs. 17.9% YTD, distancing Renault (+14.8%) at 15.8% share and Citroen (+13.2%) at 10%, meaning the 3 main French manufacturers lose market share year-on-year in July. To be noted is the push towards health by Renault, reducing its demo sales by 13.3% in a market up 32.7% to just 6.1% of its deliveries, whereas Peugeot demo sales are up 20.9% to 11% share and Citroen’s are up 13.6% to 10%. One of the biggest events of the First Half 2018 in France was the historical 4th place of Dacia, ahead of Volkswagen for the first time. This unique situation isn’t anymore, with VW (+23.4%) now back above Dacia (+18.3%) both in July and YTD. Toyota (+31.7%) reclaims the 6th spot it holds YTD off Fiat (+61.5%) delivering the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 20 thanks to short-term rentals.

Jeep deliveries surge 82.7% year-on-year in July, propped up by demo sales.

Nissan (+48.1%) is also very impressive in 8th place (its highest since September 2017), however reading between the lines reveals the largest demo sales gain in market at a whopping +178% to an incredible 48% of its July sales. The 3 premium Germans all lose significant share year-on-year this month with Audi (-2.3%) reclaiming the lead both in July and YTD for only 30 sales, ahead of Mercedes (-3.7%) and BMW (+3.3%). BMW demo sales are up 81% to a huge 26% of its July deliveries, Mercedes also in the naughty corner with demos up 67% to an even more worrying 34.5% share in July. Some very dynamic brands at the tail end of the Top 25 also owe their spectacular growth to soaring demo sales: Jeep (+82.7%) is matched by demo sales up 82% to 27% of its July volume and DS (+49.6%) sees its demo sales up 50% to 11.9% of its total.

The Seat Arona smashes its ranking record to #33, by far the brand’s best-seller in France.

Seat (+42.6%), Skoda (+29.9%), Hyundai (+29%), Volvo (+27.1%) and Ford (+24%) also impressare healthier whereas Mini (-26.4%) freefalls. Also of note is a very interesting return to a healthy mix for Opel, already making news this month with a first H1 profit in 19 years under the control of PSA. Opel is a brand that has traditionally been burdened with a very high rate of artificial sales, but its weak July uplift (+12.2%) is actually due to short-term rentals freefalling down 26% to just 3% of its July sales vs. 22% YTD, demo sales down 11% to 18% share and – the most impressive and significant – private sales shooting up 36% to account for 64.6% of its July volume – well above the 49.7% market average – vs. 43.6% YTD. Finally, notice Alfa Romeo demo sales surging 171% to a whopping 48% of its July sales, Honda demos up 145% to 50%, with Mitsubishi (+204.4%), Jaguar (+79.1%), Subaru (+46%) and Porsche (+39.3%) also posting extravagant gains and newly relaunched Alpine crossing the 500 units sold since the start of the year.

The Peugeot 5008 breaks its ranking record at home to #12.

Model-wise, the Renault Clio (+10%) and Peugeot 208 (+8%) remain in control but both lose share vs. a year ago, as does the Peugeot 3008 (+14%) back in the third spot it holds YTD. This month the 3008 is only 755 sales off the French pole position: this is the closest the nameplate has ever been to being the outright best-selling nameplate in France (previous best: 926 exactly a year ago in July 2017). Naturally, the Peugeot 3008/5008 tandem is by far the most popular “unofficial” vehicle in France at 5.8% share vs. just 4.4% for the Clio, and this for the 5th time this year after January, February, April and May. The Dacia Sandero (+17%) and Peugeot 2008 (+18%) match the market and both edge past the Citroen C3 (+1%) already weak less than two years after launch, and the Renault Captur (+11%), handicapped by Renault’s policy of loading up on sales at the end of every quarter (March and June), drops five spots on last month to #8.

Ford Fiesta sales are up 156% year-on-year in July.

The Citroen C3 Aircross is up 4 ranks on June to hit a record #9, breaking into the French Top 10 for only the 2nd time after last January (#10) while the Renault Megane (+41%) uncharacteristically posts the largest gain in the Top 10 (WLTP?). The Peugeot 5008 (+39%) breaks its ranking (#12) and share (1.8%) records (previous bests #15 and 1.6% last November) just as the Toyota Yaris (+38%), VW Tiguan (+161%, hitting a new ranking record at #13) and Nissan Qashqai (+62%) all fit within the July Top 14 whereas foreign YTD leader the VW Polo (-24%) is down to #19. Adding the Dacia Duster at #15, there are 8 SUVs in the French Top 15 in July, a new all-time record.

First Top 100 finish for the XC40 which has become Volvo’s best-seller in France.

The Fiat Tipo (+161%), Ford Fiesta (+156%), Ecosport (+133%), Fiat Panda (+86%), 500X (+71%) and Citroen C4 Cactus (+58%) all shine further down the ladder. Among recent launches, the Citroen C4 Spacetourer – in fact a rebranded C4 Picasso – leaps up 78 ranks on June to #23, the DS 7 Crossback is up 6 spots to a new record #32, toppling the VW T-Roc at #33 (-5) while the Seat Arona breaks into the French Top 50 (and Top 40) for the first time at #37 (+18) and the Volvo XC40 scores its first Top 100 at #90 (+35). Looking at the private sales channel, the Dacia Sandero (+10.7%) remains comfortably at #1 ahead of the Peugeot 208 (+9.7%), Renault Clio (+4%) and Peugeot 2008 (+9.9%), replicating the YTD Top 4. The Dacia Duster (+23.1%) is down to #8 but remains #5 YTD, the Toyota Yaris (+39.3%) is the only “foreigner” (albeit made in France) in the July Top 10 but the YTD Top 10 is now 100% French as the Renault Twingo (+34.6%) knocks the VW Polo out.

Previous post (1): France 1-17 July 2018: Peugeot 3008 in top spot, 5008 in Top 10

Previous post (2): France H1 2018: Dacia above VW, Top 13 is 100% French for 1st time since 1979

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

One year ago: France July 2017: Peugeot 3008 on the podium for the first time

Full July 2018 Top 40 brands, Top 270 models and Top 10 private sales below.

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