Volkswagen Group had a stunning 8% increase in sales in the first half of 2018, which is all the more impressive since the company dominates European sales, with a 24% EU market share. (In this article “European” refers only to members of the European Union. The numbers are similar when other European countries are added in.) The namesake Volkswagen brand did well; Audi dropped by just 2%, but was still responsible for 400,000 sales, and Porsche picked up some of the difference.
It seems clear that, even if your top management has been implicated in crimes and scandals, you can still sell an awful lot of cars; or, in other words, it’s hard to lose the public’s trust. (Or perhaps VW Group was just successful in spreading confusion and doubt about every other automaker.)
PSA Group, most commonly known for its Peugeot and Citroën brands, zoomed from a 10% market share to 16%, but that was because they bought Opel (including England’s Vauxhall), adding 486,822 sales (around 40,000 fewer than the brands had when they were owned by General Motors last year). GM went from a 6% market share to 0%, selling just 1,450 cars. Peugeot sold 9% more, and Citroën, once known for their odd designs, posted a 4% gain; the luxury DS brand hit 26,171, a 6% gain, beating Lexus. None of these brands are sold in North America.
By the way, you may be seeing PSA cars here in the States soon; plans are to re-enter North America in 2026. 15 states and four provinces are in the running to get PSA dealerships, and they already have a headquarters in Atlanta; the goal is apparently to avoid dealerships, instead selling used cars from their own car-sharing service. It’s probably the first time any manufacturer in the US has sought to establish themselves solely as a used car seller.
#3 is another French company, which also does not sell cars in the United States — Renault. Their namesake brand didn’t really gain, but Dacia and Lada did, and they sold their first 569 Alpines. Europeans have presumably forgotten the Chrysler Alpine by now (no relation).
FCA, which in Europe almost entirely means “Fiat,” came in at a distant #4, selling 586,723 cars to Renault Group’s 906,925. Jeep was the real winner, posting a massive 68% gain, albeit to just 87,792 vehicles — almost all of which were Renegades and Compasses. Alfa Romeo only gained by 8% despite an absolutely massive investment in the Giulia and Stelvio, coming to 48,079 (well behind Jeep, but presumably with more profits per car).
Ford, the only major American brand in Europe, sold 540,010 cars under their own name, dropping by 4%. BMW, Mercedes, and Smart all posted small drops, while Toyota, with its new platform and updated cars, gained by 7%. Hyundai rose by 8%, but only had a 3% market share — similar to Nissan and Kia. Honda, present in Europe for many years, has yet to gain traction, selling just under 76,000 cars — a 3% gain.
It’s all a bit odd for an American, because the landscape is so alien. Many of the big players in Europe are not sold in the US or Canada — Skoda, Seat, Peugeot, Opel, Citroën, DS, Renault, Dacia, Lada, Alpine, and Lancia, in “chart order.” Some of the biggest players never make it across the ocean. No wonder that Renault bought AMC all those years ago, hoping to use their car designs in new territories.
FCA, so large and talked about, is almost a minor player in Europe; Jeep and Alfa Romeo are growing, but still have a fairly small impact on overall sales. The top brands in Europe, in order, are Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot, Mercedes, Audi, Fiat, and BMW. None of these are true volume players in the US; VW has been trying for years to reach past American glories, Fiat has dwindled to almost nothing, and Renault and Peugeot aren’t in the US at all.
Figures are from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.
The author of books on the Dodge Viper, Jeep pickups and wagons, and Chrysler minivans (as well as a kid’s book about early Jeeps), David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.com and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form.