A-segment has been always a Fiat segment. They have been always the leaders not only in Europe but also in Brazil. First, their popular Panda presented in 2005, and then the unique 500 in 2007. Both cars have had excellent registrations in the continent thanks to their good relation price-product and the good way they differenciate them. Nonetheless competition has been getting hard as other important car makers had arrived with their proposals, with the exception of the Europe’s largest car manufacturer, VW. Unlike what it happens with most of car segments in Europe, VW has not been able to have a good sales performance in A-segment. First they tried with Lupo/Arosa with bad numbers and then came the real flop: the Fox, imported from Brazil. Those cars did not understand the target as they were expensive, unpractical and made with very low quality materials. But inFrankfurt 2011, they finally presented the Up!, an all new small car with VW’s main characteristics: good quality and very classic design. But VW decided to offer it using two more brands: Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii in order to reach around 120-150.000 units/year in Europe.
Meanwhile, in the same automotor show, Fiat guys were presenting the third generation of the Panda, Europe’s best selling A-segment car. The new Panda showed an excellent evolution of its predecesor keeping its great habitability and improving its practicality, and interior and exterior design. The car kept its idea of taking the best advantage of its interior roominess and this time was going to be 100% Italian and no more Polish (as part of Fabbrica Italia plan). During the last years Fiat’s sales in Europe had been depending more and more on A-segment. In 2011 Fiat 500 and Panda’s sales represented 36% of total sales of the group in Europe, and Italy counts for 51% of those sales, followed by France 10%, Germany 9,6%, the UK, 9% and the Netherlands 5%. In terms of models, the Panda sold 55% of Fiat’s total sales in A-segment, but it depends much more on Italian market: 60% of its sales are in Italy. On the other hand, the 500 is more international as it is popular not also in Italy (38% of its European sales), but also in the UK (16%), France (12%) and Germany (11%). With the arrival of VW to the segment things might be changing.
To make a good analysis about the impact the small VW has had on Fiat’s models, it is important to evaluate data from January/12 when both, new Panda and Up! were properly begining their commercial life. It is also important to take into account the countries evaluated: Austria, Czech Rep., Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. In the first month, VW Up! had a slow begining in its native Germany were they only sold around 2.000 units, much more, though, than new Panda with only 803 units and Cinquecento with 1.559 units. In Italy, the Up! was not already available, but both Italians did have a good performance nevertheless the bad situation of Italian market. For the whole month, the 3 of them, Panda, 500 and Up!, sold 26.738 units, 54% of those were Pandas, 35% Cienquecentos and 11% Ups. One month later the situation was pretty much the same but with some good news for the new Panda that got 56% of total sales of the 3 models, 15.467 units, while the 500 decreased its share to 30% and Up was up 3 points, 14%, as it began its sales in more countries but decreased its registrations in Germany. In March, VW Up! finally takes off with total sales of 8.975 units, or 26% of the sales of the 3 models, affecting directly 500 sales, which, though were up 14% compared to total of February thanks to better numbers everywhere in Europe (no matter the strike problems in Italy), had a final share of 28%, around 600 units more than the German. Finally, in April 2012 the situation had again some changes: Panda continued to increase its sales up to 16.733, up 6% compared to March, thanks to good performance in Italy, Germany, Spain and Greece, while 500 and Up! were down 8% due, in the first case, to lower sales in Germany (-23%), and Spain (-80%: most of units sold in March were car renting ones), but better numbers in Italy (+30%). In the case of the VW, it has a decrease in its German market (-3,5%), Denmark (-47%) and the Netherlands (-11%). For the Year-To-Date results, the Panda has 51% of market share among them, while Cinquecento has 29,5% and Up! 19,5%. By countries, the Panda has the lowest export ratio, as 66% of its sales are made in Italy, followed by the Up!, 52% in Germany and then the 500, whose sales in Italy represent 40%.
It all means that the small VW had a low take off, to finally takes off and affect some how Fiat 500 sales, but it seems not to be a big threat yet as its sales are not being brilliant in Europe’s largest A-segment market: Italy, while its performance in Germany has not been outstanding. Certainly the 3 door version is a direct competitor to Fiat 500, and Fiat guys should be working on better strategies to protect its market share, but its popularity in Italy, the UK (which’s sales were not considered as there is no data for April), France, Germany, Netherlands and some others, are the best tool to compete. Meanwhile, the 5 doors Up! will have a tougher match with the Panda, as it continues its success in Italy. Nevertheless Fiat must work harder in marketing strategies and keep telling Europe they make the best mini cars, as VW is a strong car maker and knows perfectly how to get new clients, no matter its negative background in this segment. Here there is sales information per country for Jan-Apr/12: