True Fleets show record growth in Big Five, but shrinking UK is odd one out
The True Fleet market across the EU's Big Five grew by 1.6% last year. If that doesn't sound much, it's because the UK (-5.8%) drags the average down. In Spain (+12.5%), France (+7.2%), Italy (+6.2%) and Germany (+2.1%), 2017 beat the previous year's record. Dataforce, which provided the figures, offers some background and, in a separate interview, an analysis and a look ahead.
"Unique among the Big Five, Spain's True Fleet market was the only one to grow for every single month in 2017", says Dataforce analyst Richard Worrow. In fact, monthly growth has been uninterrupted since January 2014. And 2017 was the fourth consecutive year of growth. The Spanish Total market finished just 8,000 units short of 1.3 million units for 2017 - its best year since 2007.
- Brand performance: All Top 10 manufacturers were in the black. Robust growth for the Clio saw Renault capture the top spot from Volkswagen (on 2nd). Peugeot maintained 3rd place.
- Fuel type: alternative fuels are finally starting to make inroads, with market share increasing from 3.4% in 2016 to 6.4% in the Private market, and from 4.2% to 6.7% in the True Fleet market. With petrol also growing (5% to 19.1% in True Fleets), diesel is the big loser (81.6% to 74.2%).
"The Total market hit 2.11 million in 2017, with all segments participating. This is one of the best annual results ever for France", says Dataforce analyst Nils Wehner.
With a robust 7.2% growth, True Fleets achieved a new all-time record. While annual private registrations rose for the third year in a row, the Private market increase was only 2.3%.
- Brand performance: Renault remained True Fleet market leader, but Peugeot reduced the gap by robust 22.5% growth, mainly thanks to the 3008 and 5008. Citroën in 3rd place kept the Germans (VW, BMW, Audi and Mercedes in 4th to 7th place) from the podium.
- Vehicle segments: SUVs were the fastest-growing segment, but the real surprise was the remarkable growth of the utility vehicles. At +15.9%, they were the second-fastest-growing segment (totalling 4.2% of True Fleet registrations in 2017), ahead of the small-car segment (+12.4%). Private-market utility vehicles grew even faster (+16.9%), representing the strongest segmental growth in the French Private market last year.
"Italy's Total Market had its best year since 2009, ending with around 2.1 million registrations", says Dataforce analyst Gabriel Juhas. "And despite two negative months, the True Fleet market has increased 6.2% over last year's registration numbers - also thanks to the 'Super-Ammortamento' ending for most companies".
- Brand performance: Fiat remains the clear leader in the True Fleet market, and by a long stretch. VW kept its 2nd place, but Ford jumped up three places to 3rd, powered by the positive performances of the Fiesta, Ecosport and Kuga.
- Fuel type: unlike other European countries, Italy has a high figure for gas/petrol-powered vehicles (CNG, LPG): 160,000 registrations last year. (Next is Turkey, with 25,000). However, these gas-powered cars are mostly registered in the Private market, with True Fleets registering more hybrids - the fuel type with the highest relative volume increase overall. Diesel did well in Italy, thanks in part to taxation being more accommodating.
"Not only did the German True Fleet market grow for the 4th year in a row (+2.1%), it also hit another all-time record. This will be a challenging benchmark", says Dataforce analyst Michael Gergen. Growth in Germany and contraction in the UK meant that Germany fell only 30,000 units short of overtaking the UK as the biggest True Fleet market in Europe. That may well happen next year.
- Brand performance: VW and Audi stayed in the lead in the True Fleet market, but suffered a decline - undoubtedly (but not exclusively) linked to 'Dieselgate'. Growing 12.9%, Mercedes took 3rd place from BMW. Peugeot's spectacular 86.7% rise saw it enter the Top 10.
- Model ranking: the first four positions remained within the Volkswagen Group: the VW Golf, VW Passat, Audi A4 and Skoda Octavia, in that order.
- Vehicle segment: with a remarkable 15.6% gain over 2016, the SUV segment has finally taken the top spot, overtaking both the Middle-Class (-9.9%) and Compact-Car (+0.5%) segment. SUVs represent 22.3% of the True Fleet market in 2017, an all-time high. Middle-Class cars represented 18.8%, the lowest share ever.
"Whether 2017 was successful for the British car market depends a lot on point of view", says Dataforce analyst Benjamin Kibies. "With 2.54 million new registrations, the Total market performed fairly decent against the ten-year average of 2.28 million". But absolute volumes were 5.7% lower. Same for True Fleets: one of the highest volumes ever, but with a 5.8% drop in registrations.
- Brand Performance: half of the Top 10 brands improved (two with double digits), while the other half bore losses. Ford lost less than Vauxhall, taking its top spot. VW, on 3rd, gained 7.6%.
- Fuel type: diesel remains the preferred fuel for a little more than half of the new fleet cars. However, hybrid registrations grew by 30.1%. Considering their tax advantage, hybrids may now be the most cost-efficient motorisation for those in the UK who use their company car mainly for commuting and short distances.