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The spotlight has been on the Saudi Arabian new car market ever since the local government announced last year that women would be allowed to drive from 24 June 2018 onwards. Now BSCB is able to share with you exclusive 2nd Half 2018 Saudi Arabia new car sales data. Unfortunately, as I predicted in our last Saudi update and in an interview to the BBC, the arrival of women on the car market hasn’t had any impact on sales that have been freefalling for the past 3 years. After dropping 17% in 2016 and 22% in 2017, deliveries accelerate their plunge to -24% over the first 10 months of 2018 at 330.121 units. Even removing 2017 figures for the VW and BMW Groups – tiny here and not reporting in 2018 – to form a comparable set of brands does little to reduce the decline (-23.5%). A closer look at each month since June (-41%) shows a Saudi market seesawing within double-digit losses: -17% in July, -35% in August, -13% in September and -24% in October. The H2 decline so far (-23%) is roughly in line with H1 (-25%) meaning there is no sign of any undercurrent improvement triggered by new purchases by women.
I have been repeating it over the past year or so, although the timing is perfect to allow an estimated 3 million Saudi women on the road by 2020 given the dire straits the market finds itself at the moment, the transition will be at best very gradual. True, Saudi car dealerships have put all stops to welcome this new clientele with dedicated marketing campaigns and a new female salesforce, but decades of being barred from the roads of the country mean the stigma against female drivers remains omnipresent and although allowed, the reality on the ground is that women daring to take the wheel in Saudi Arabia remain far and few between, the experience being too daunting for a lot of them. As I forecast last year, the new women drivers currently comfortable driving their car in Saudi Arabia are well-heeled car owners that obtained a driver’s license overseas and have fired their drivers. And that means no additional new sales.
In this troubled context, Toyota (-26%) manages to limit its fall to just a tad more than the market, maintaining its share above the symbolic 30% mark at 30.9%. Hyundai (-31%) isn’t that lucky at 18.6 but remains at #2 while Nissan (-24%) rounds up the podium like last year. Mazda (+27%) brilliantly gains five spots on its FY2017 ranking to leap to #4 overall, the only Top 10 carmaker in positive. Chevrolet (-10%), Honda (-10%) and Ford (-17%) improve their shares thanks to controlled falls, Isuzu (-24%) matches the market but Renault (-57%) and Kia (-43%) dive. Further down, Ram (+174%), Mitsubishi (+126%), Maserati (+64%), Jaguar (+12%) and Cadillac (+3%) are among the rare gainers, MG storms directly into the Saudi Top 15 with Jeep (-3%), Lexus (-7%) and Genesis (-12%) resist well but Infiniti (-91%), Lincoln (-53%), GMC (-42%), Subaru (-35%), Dodge (-33%) and Suzuki (-33%) freefall.
Over in the models ranking, the Toyota Camry (-36%) holds onto the top spot it snapped in 2017 for dear life, but the Toyota Hilux (-18%) drops twice slower and is now just 1.000 units below which means it could still manage a last minute win. The Hyundai Sonata (-21%), Accent (-29%) and Elantra (-32%) close out the Top 5 as they did last year, ahead of the Toyota Corolla (-30%), Yaris (-20%), Mazda6 (-21%) and Nissan Sunny (-27%). The Saudi market is indeed very passenger car-heavy, with the Isuzu TF aka D-Max (+15%) the 2nd pickup in the Top 10. SUVs come strong from #12 onwards though with the Toyota Land Cruiser (-3%) followed by the Toyota Fortuner (-22%), Chevrolet Tahoe (-22%) and Mazda CX-9 (+160%). Notice also great performances by the Honda Civic (+108%), Chevrolet Spark (+88%), Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup (+54%) and Nissan X-Trail (+52%). The Mitsubishi Attrage (#23) is the most popular recent launch above the Mazda CX-5 (#39), MG360 (#49), Toyota Rush (#65), MG RX5 (#69) and MG ZS (#79).
Full January-October 2018 Top 35 All-brands and Top 50 models below.