The Passat is very much das auto in the European D-segment. We look at how everyone else is doing.
With the strongest sales of all of the major European producers, German manufacturers remain hugely successful in the mainstream D-segment. Today, we delve below the surface to see if the figures tell the full story.
Starting with Opel, who sold 92,694 Insignias last year – a 20% rise on 2013, putting GM Europe in second place. The Insignia is an attractive car, and by most accounts, a thoroughly median one – not the best, but far from the worst either. It’s been around for a good few years now but given its sales success we’re very likely to see another. This isn’t a market General Motors is prepared to abandon, and given that it’s sold as a Holden in Australia, a Buick in the US and China, an Opel in Europe and (heaven help us) a Vauxhall in Britain, they’d be foolish to consider doing so.
Over to Cologne and to Ford, and the picture is less rosy – about 50% less to be precise. Sales of the outgoing Mondeo continued to fall last year – 45,405 found homes, consigning them to a distant 4th place. This year’s figures are expected to look healthier with its long-awaited replacement model on sale. But much will hinge upon the new Mondeo’s appeal and since it looks disappointingly a lot like the last one, initial signs aren’t brilliant. And while it appears by all accounts a well developed, finely honed piece of consumer durability, the worry is that it will date quickly. Which isn’t great news if the next one is at least another four-to-six years away. But a next one there will be – the One-Ford global policy will ensure that – certainly as long as the General keeps churning ’em out at Russelsheim.
The common misconception is that VW’s cash cow is the Golf. Wrong. The Passat is what keeps VW in thrills, pills and bellyaches. The top-selling D-sector model in Europe, with sales of 153,677 last year, the Passat reigns supreme. VW have just launched a classy and sophisticated 7th iteration Passat and nobody of sound mind would bet against the new model continuing its run of success. With the ECOTY in their pocket for 2015, VW is in it for the long haul. The only fly in the ointment for them has to be the differentiation VW have put in place for Passats sold in Europe, China and the US. This makes no economic sense and requires urgent attention if VW are to cut costs as they have pledged to do; especially since the de-contented US model is selling so poorly.
A further ace up VW’s sleeve is the continued growth of its Czech satellite. 46,149 old-model Škoda Superb’s found new owners last year, up 9% on 2013 and placing 3rd overall, ahead of the Mondeo. Having just launched a new iteration, Škoda now offers most of the advantages of the Passat in a less smugly middle-class package. Škoda continue to make the kind of cars large swathes of the population want to own and this model is likely to further consolidate that position. A Passat for people who don’t like Volkswagens, the combined VW Group now dominate the European D-sector.
Nevertheless, they’d be doing a whole lot better still if they were exporting these cars globally, rather than sticking doggedly to the template they have now. With both the 2015 Passat and Superb only getting off the blocks, there is an opportunity for rivals to make some temporary gains, but the time when VW has 50% of this segment really cannot be far off. Terrific news for VW in terms of market share and bragging rights, but less so in terms of cost and profitability.
Data source: Left-Lane.com via ANDC/JATODynamics