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UK October 2020: Earthquake as Mercedes A-Class takes overall lead in market down -1.6%

The Mercedes A-Class signs its first ever victory in the UK. Picture

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), new car sales in the UK edge down -1.6% year-on-year in October to 140.945 units, the lowest October result since 2011 (134.944) and the 9th year-on-year decline out of 10 months this year. Only July (+11.3%) showed a positive result this year. This figure is a little better than we expected, but the introduction of a ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales on October 23rd hit sales in that nation -25.5% and already account for more than half of this month’s losses. Add to this the new stay at home order for England forcing showrooms to close in November and ever-more pressing Brexit challenges and the picture isn’t looking rosy at all in the short term. We predict UK November sales to be down -25% and December at -15% in a best case scenario. So far in 2020, UK sales are off -31% over the same period in 2019 to just 1.384.601 units and we are adjusting out our 2020 Forecast from 1.664.000 units (-28%) last month to 1.629.000 (-29.5%) but the SMMT once again is a lot less optimistic, reducing its 2020 prediction to just 1.56 million (-32.5%) which is definitely a possibility if showroom closures aren’t compensated enough by online sales. Indeed the “click & collect” avenue is all the industry has to avoid a repeat of catastrophic Spring sales (March -44.4%, April -97.3%, May -89%). To take stock: 1.56 millions annual sales in the UK would be the worst annual volume in 38 years: since 1982…

Source: SMMT

In September, Private sales swim upstream with a modest 0.4% year-on-year uptick to 60.422 and 42.9% share vs. 42% a year ago, however this is vs. particularly low private volumes in 2019 when ongoing supply issues arising from regulatory challenges hurt private sales -13.1%. Fleets drop -3.3% to 77.249 and 54.8% share vs. 55.8%. Business sales, always a very small figure, are up 4% to 3.274. Year-to-date, here too private sales fare best at -27% to 656.139 and 47.4% share, almost three percentage point higher than over the same period in 2019 (44.8%). Reversely, fleets are down -33.8% to 699.766 and 50.5% vs. 52.7% in 2019. Business sales fare the worst at -43.7% to 28.696 sales and 2.1% share vs. 2.5%.

According to our records, it’s the first time a premium model ranks #1 in the UK. Picture

Looking at fuel types, petrol is down -21.3% to 69.704 and 49.5% share, diesel is off a devastating -38.4% to 20.941 and 14.9% share and alternatively fuelled vehicles shoot up 143.9% to 50.300 and a record 35.7% share. In the detail, BEV is up 195.2% to 9.335 and 6.6% share vs. 2.2% a year ago, PHEV is up 148.7% to 7.775 and 5.5% share vs. 2.2% in October 2020, HEV soars 39% to 11.038 and 7.8% share vs. 5.5% and MHEV (mild hybrid) shoot up 246.4% to 22.152 and 15.7% share vs. 4.4% a year ago. Year-to-date, Petrol is off -38.9% to 789.612 and 57% share vs. 64.5% over the same period a year ago, Diesel freefalls -55.1% to 230.034 and just 16.6% share vs. 25.5% at the same stage in 2019 whereas BEV is up 168.7% to 75.946 and 5.5% share vs. 1.4%, PHEV is up 91.5% to 50.052 and 3.6% vs. 1.3%, HEV is up 11% to 95.031 and 6.9% share vs. 4.3% and MHEV up 139.8% to 143.926 and 10.3% share vs. 3% in 2019.

The Ford Puma ranks #5 for the month and earns a spot inside the YTD Top 10.

In the brands ranking, Ford (-22.7%) and Volkswagen (-13.1%) remain on top despite losing a lot more ground than the market. Audi (+51.2%) is up one spot on September to brilliantly climb onto the podium at #3. Below Mercedes (-3.8%) and BMW (-10.4%) both in difficulty, Vauxhall (+38.1%) stuns and posts its largest gain since the brand was purchased by the PSA Group, a performance solely due to the new Corsa which accounts for 48% of its October volume, however the brand remains in the second half of the Top 10 at #6. Volvo (+52.2%) shoots up 5 ranks on last month to break into the UK Top 10 for the second time this year after last May (#6) which was the worst Covid month this year. Skoda (+13.1%) also shines and is up to #9. Outside the Top 10, notice MG (+126.6%) up to #20, Smart (+112%), Mini (+25%), Subaru (+12.5%) and Jeep (+11.4%) all posting significant gains. Tesla (-10.5%) is down 8 spots on last month to an estimated (and paltry) 375 units.

The BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 also rank inside the October Top 10. Picture

Bigger milestones are to be found in the models charts this month. For starters, the Mercedes A-Class (+14.3%) is the best-selling vehicle in the UK for the first time. According to our records, this is the first time a model by a premium brand ranks #1 in any given month in the UK. However monthly figures beyond the 90s are hard to come by so if any of our readers has information about thus subject please comment on this post or email us. Interestingly, the A-Class’ two hatch competitors are also present in this month’s Top 10: the BMW 1 Series ranks 9th for its 2nd Top 10 appearance this year after last May (#7) but more surprisingly is now part of the YTD Top 10 at #10 vs. #13 over the FY2019. The Audi A3 ranks 10th for the month, the first Top 10 finish of the new generation and the first for the nameplate in almost 2.5 years: since July 2018 (#6). Back to the top of the charts where the Vauxhall Corsa (+123.9%) remains above its archenemy the Ford Fiesta (-25.2%) for the 4th time in the past 5 months, but the advantage the Fiesta has gathered throughout the year (almost 3.800 sales) will be near impossible for the Corsa to overturn before year-end.

The Volvo XC40 scores a third ever Top 10 finish in the UK at a record #6.

Below the VW Golf (-3.6%) solid in the context of the launch of the ID.3, the Ford Puma climbs back up two spots to score its second ever Top 5 finish after last August (#4) and a third consecutive (and ever) Top 10 finish after ranking #7 last month. As a result, the Puma brilliantly breaks into the YTD Top 10 at #9. Yet there are more newsworthy even in this October Top 10… The Volvo XC40 is shaping up to be a blockbuster for the Swedish brand in the UK, aligning a third ever Top 10 finish as it climbs up 3 spots on September to #6, a position it had already held last May when the market stalled -89% because of Covid lockdowns. Despite a 55.5% year-on-year surge, the Mini Hatch can’t do better than #7 which is also its YTD ranking. The Ford Focus (-21.3%) looks tired in the face of the three pronged premium attack this month (A-Class, 1 Series, A3) but retains its 4th spot YTD.

Previous month: UK September 2020: Corsa #1 for the third time in 4 months, Ford Puma #7, Volvo XC40 #9 in market down -4.4%

One year ago: UK October 2019: Private sales drag market down -6.7% to lowest since 2011, Vauxhall down -36.3%, Evoque in Top 10

Full October 2020 Top 40 All-brands and Top 10 models below.

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