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18 Mar 15

European car fleet market sees consolidation in 2015

The fleet business has established further and has become ever more important for the manufacturers by representing almost 25 percent of all new passenger car registrations all over the EU-5 markets. But will fleet markets be able to grow again in 2015 or will the private sector regain volume and market share instead. According to Michael Gergen from automotive data specialist Dataforce, it looks like the 2015 European car fleet market will be a stable one. 

Let’s start with a quick review on 2014 first. If the manufacturers and importers are evaluating last year’s results at least the group of managers who is responsible for the fleet business should be satisfied. The true fleet Markets in the Big Five European Markets - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - were performing very well in 2014. The growth rate for the full year was impressive with + 12.2 percent. The volumes in both the Private Market and the Special Channels (manufacturers, dealerships and Rent-A-Cars) achieved annual growth rates of only + 3.8 percent and + 3.0 percent respectively. Obviously the fleet business has established further and has become even more important for the manufacturers by representing almost 25 percent of all new passenger car registrations all over the EU-5 markets (24.7 percent compared to 23.2 percent in the previous year).

The main question is whether the Fleet Markets will be able to grow again in 2015 or if the Private sector will regain volume and market share instead. The EU-5 markets represent about 70 percent of the European market. Based on our forecast for EU-5 we expect the volume for the true fleet segment to be very stable in 2015. But taking into account a growing total market the result will be a slightly lower share for the true fleet business than in its record year 2014. However we are still on a very high level with about 24 percent of the total market. The private market will recover and should be able to get back on the level of 2013 with a share of approximately 49 percent in total.

In Italy and Spain the registrations on true fleets will increase compared to last year. This holds true as well for the biggest fleet market in Europe, the United Kingdom, despite the really positive results in 2014, the best year since 2007 in terms of sales to company fleets. Germany was very successful for the fleet business too in 2014. This very high level of registrations most probably will be out of reach for this year. Similar to France we expect a decline of fleet sales of 2-3 percent in the next 12 months which is still moderate.

Main trends in fleet
Analysing the share of the most important vehicle segments in the EU-5 fleet markets shows that the most popular segment - the compact cars - will remain No. 1 despite an expected decrease of 0.5 percentage points.

The middle class will recover and outperform its result of 2014 increasing the share by more than 1.5 percentage points. However this performance won’t be strong enough to beat the SUVs, which will remain the second strongest vehicle segment and will keep growing. The Mini-Vans will play a less important role losing about 1.7 percentage points next year.

Developing the main vehicle segments
Concentrating on three big segments – Compact Cars, SUV and Middle Class – the analysis reveals that their development is triggered by various factors. The decline for the Compact models is mainly caused by Spain and the United Kingdom while the share in France, Germany and Italy is expected to remain very stable.

The success story for the SUV however is based on a cross-national trend. In all five markets their share will grow, particularly in France, Spain and Italy. In the last four months of 2014 SUVs were already the leading segment in the Italian Fleet Market, and the future is looking bright for the Offroaders with growing numbers for popular models like Nissan Qashqai or Mercedes GLA, and new entries like the Fiat 500X, Renault Kadjar and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

The Middle Class very much depends on the German market where this segment is number one, while it only ranks 4th or 5th in the other four countries. The full availability of one of the most successful models for fleet customers overall; the new Passat, especially as a Station Wagon, will push the segment as well as the Mercedes C-Class and the Ford Mondeo.

The 2015 fleet market winners
The market leader Volkswagen will probably increase its market share, first of all with the Passat. BMW, Mercedes and Nissan will have a strong year too, with growing volumes for models like the 2-Series Active Tourer, C-Class/GLA and Pulsar/X-Trail.

In addition there are some more brands and models with a promising outlook for 2015: Jaguar (back in the middle class with the all new XE), Jeep (Renegade), Porsche (Macan) and of course Smart with the new ForTwo/ForFour accompanied by models like Citroën C4 Cactus, Opel Corsa and Renault Twingo.

Outside of EU-5
The biggest markets beside the TOP 5 are Belgium and the Netherlands. In those two countries the fleet market plays a significant role with shares of around 37 percent (Belgium) and 39 percent (Netherlands), and this relevance will proceed similarly in 2015. This also applies to Eastern Europe (Baltics, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia). An increasing importance for the fleet market is likely to be expected in Scandinavia, where the share of this sales channel climbed from 28 percent in 2012 to almost 36 percent in 2014. 

Author: Michael Gergen, Dataforce