Lately some readers in different forums have asked why no one has said anything about Fiat latest kick to VW. Yes, is not usual to hear that Fiat beats VW, but it happened last year and it happened in Europe. As I was doing a monthly report for European sales registrations for Fiat Panda/500 vs. VW Up!/Skoda Citigo/Seat Mii, here it is the final result for them in 2012. There are no surprises: Fiat continues to be the absolute leader in European A-Segment and the arrival of the new VW family did not change that. Actually the result for the VW boys is good and bad, depending on how it is analyzed. Fiat may have had a terrible full year but it is absolutely the leader when thinking of city cars. The 500 is perhaps the best performer considering its age: five years after its introduction and no deep restyling, it keeps ranking first among city cars in several countries in Europe. It is also the model that keeps helping Fiat not to lose more market share as it is the most international model nowadays. Contrary to the Panda, which got a good result, but it is very dependent on its local market.
However the new Up! and Co. had an effect on the demand of the couple from Fiat. In some markets, specially in Northern Europe, they 500, and specially the Panda, saw how their registrations fell year-on-year. The Up! is very popular in Denmark and the Netherlands, and in Germany it didn’t do as well as expected. That’s why its results, along with those of its twins from Skoda and Seat, can be considered bad and good. To reach more than 150.000 units in its first complete year in a market in crisis is certainly a good result. But the result in its home land and the big gap there is between other models of the family and the Up! and Co. indicates that this car did not meet expectations. Yes, Europe is coming thru really hard times, but the Up!/Mii/Citigo’s low sales came mostly from those economies that did not do as bad as those of Southern Europe. If you look at the Up! registrations in Italy, France or Spain, you will notice that they were not high at all. Anyone could say that those markets had shocking drops in 2012, but if you see closely to Fiat 500/Panda’s registrations in those markets, you will notice that they quite well no matter the crisis. In other words, VW Up! and Co. ‘success’ came from those markets that didn’t have a big fall. But the position of this model in major markets such as Italy, Spain, France, or even Germany, wasn’t the best, and it wasn’t a matter of crisis.
Lets begin with Italy, the largest A-Segment market in Europe. Playing as locals, the 500 and Panda rule as absolute kings. The Panda became Italy’s best-selling car and was one of the few Fiat brand models to rise its registrations year-on-year. The new generation works pretty good no matter it is not a cheap car anymore. The 500 didn’t do that well as its sales fell 28%, but it is still Italy’s second best-selling city car. Both models counted for 64% of A-Segment sales. Thus is clear that in a market like this VW would had had problems positioning its babies. The Up! surpassed the French but wasn’t enough to win the battle against Chevrolet Spark and Toyota Aygo, both models that make part of brands that are not as powerful as VW in Europe. Therefore the Up! was # 6th in A-Segment ranking, which is certainly a very bad result for all-new car using VW logo. Italy is without any doubt, the market that explains best the bad side of the starting year of the VW Up!. What should be the strategy for Fiat in coming months? even if it seems to be an easy market for Fiat, the Panda and 500 must do more to keep ruling: Fiat should implement a product-strategy in terms of more special editions for the Panda and enlarge its range of versions trying to reduce its entry-level price. Besides the GPL and methane versions should be boosted in both models. Italians begin to like this kind of fuel.
Europe’s second largest A-Segment market. Contrary to what anyone expects, the fact that VW plays as local doesn’t mean that Germany works for the Up! as Italy does for the Panda. Sure, the Up! became the best-selling city car in Germany, but comparing its result to its bigger brothers’, you would conclude that it wasn’t definitely a hit. Germany doesn’t like citycars as Italians do, and that’s why this segment counts only for 7.2% of total market, against 20.1% in Italy. But the Up! was one of the few VW products not to reach high numbers. 5 other VW brand products did better than the Up! in terms of volume. Even the old Touran sold more units. Besides, the car is only 15.000 units ahead of the second best-selling citycar (the Smart). Germany counted for 38% of its European sales while Italy counted for 29% of Fiat 500 European sales, and 64% for the Panda. These two Fiat lost market share in Germany but the 500 remains strong in the segment at 4th place. Strategy: more and more product, and of course good positioning. As both models had similar sales, Fiat should work more on promoting both cars to increase buyers awareness.
It is clearly dominated by Fiat and the 500. The UK is Europe’s second largest market for the Fiat 500. It was the best-selling city car there, while it had a record year in terms of volume. Considering the 500’s market share within A-Segment, it got the same result of Italy: 17%. That’s absolutely a good result explained also by the fact that this city car made part of top 10 best-selling cars several times during the year. Nevertheless, there is a bad side: Fiat 500’s success didn’t mean a success for the new Panda. The gap between them is really big, and the Panda stays far away in the ranking, no matter it is a new product. Actually, the Up! doubles Panda’s sales, and its brothers from Skoda and Seat almost reached its registration numbers. So the UK is a good and a bad market for Fiat city cars. As it happened in Italy, the Up! didn’t do as good as expected: it occupied place # 7 in A-Segment ranking. Very bad result for a VW in a market where that group has 20% share. Even if all members of the family are included, the Up!/Mii/Citigo ranked 4th. Certainly VW didn’t benefit as much as other car makers from the city car boom that took place in the UK in 2012. Strategy: Fiat should work on decreasing the big gap between the successful 500 and the unknown Panda. The Panda is an excellent product that can benefit from the popular 500. Thus, Fiat must work on better promoting the Panda just as it did with the 500.
As usual, french models take the lead but this time was different. The Fiat 500 became the second best-selling city car, ahead of PSA products. The Twingo rules, but had a big fall, while the 500 fell as well, but surpassed the C1 and 107, and of course the Up! and Co. The Panda is not far but had a terrible fall, despite the fact that it is one of the few all-new models in the segment. However, the new Panda sold more than the Up!, Mii, and Citigo combined. It other words, the Panda, which a big fall did even better than a the new Up! and Co. at their first year: France was not a good market for VW in A-Segment. Based on the fact that competition with local products is difficult, Fiat (with big falls) did much better with its products than the powerful VW. Strategy: in order to keep its position and make use of Twingo’s decline, Fiat should implement a price strategy to catch some of Twingo’s potential clients. In the case of the Panda, it should continue to work promoting it and increasing French awareness.
It is Europe’s fifth largest A-Segment market, ahead of Spain, and not far from France. In this case the VW family wins without any problem, and Fiat products feel the success of its rivals from Slovakia. Even Fiat position is different: the Panda is more popular than the 500. The Up! takes the lead but couldn’t beat the leader of the segment, the old Peugeot 107. It proves again that the Up! wasn’t the success expected even in those markets where it had wonderful results. Due to high taxes on regular cars, people in the Netherlands buy small and cheap cars. That’s why A-Segment counted for 24% of total market, placing this country in second place among European A-Segment market shares (after Denmark). VW managed to place its citycars in third place after 107-C1 and i10-Picanto. Once again, it is not the result expected for a VW product. Fiat is not far in terms of volume, but its sales dropped year-on-year: the 500 and Panda were clear injured products in the segment. Strategy: price and product war. Less price and more versions for the Panda. More positioning and promotion of the 500.
Considering the share city cars have, Denmark is the largest market in Europe. And is where the Up! and brothers had the best position in the whole world. They are extremely popular and last year they got 29% of A-Segment, and 10% of total market. As it happened in the Netherlands, Fiat brothers felt the arrival of its rivals, and both are down in the ranking (VW sold 3.2 times more than Fiat in A-Segment). Opposite situation in Spain: though Spanish don’t like city cars (4% of the market), Fiat is the absolute leader in A-Segment (39% share) and sold 3.5 times more than VW, which plays as local thanks to the Seat Mii. I would define the Up!/Mii/Citigo’s performance in Spain as a complete flop. In Austria and Switzerland, the battle between them is quite balanced, but Fiat wins due to the fact that the Panda and 500 had similar sales, while the Up! was the only popular model of its family. In Belgium the Fiat 500 reigns as it does in the UK, and is far away from the bad results of the Panda and the Up! and Co. In Poland and Greece the situation is quite similar: the Panda rules, and the 500 was surpassed by the Up! (it is not clear what will happen to Panda’s figures in Poland as long as it is not produced locally anymore). The VW brothers had a good start in minor markets such as Czech Republic, Romania, Norway, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Sweden. Fiat did better in Hungary, Slovenia, Monaco, Lithuania, Portugal, Ukraine, and Latvia.
One year ago I was part of those thinking that the arrival of VW to the segment was not going to be a problem for Fiat. Months after, when I saw the good starting of the Up! in Northern Europe, I changed my mind and start thinking that Fiat position was threatened. However, looking at full year results it is clear that Fiat continues to be the absolute leader of the segment, but the market is now more complex. As competition gets tougher every day, the brand should work on 500 success to use it as platform to promote more the new Panda, which I think is one of the best of the segment. The 500 is so good that it doesn’t need to much promotion to keep its success. But Fiat must boost Panda sales by promoting it with better features, versions and in some cases, with better prices. As I wrote in a recent post, the new Panda is good on everything but price, and current economic situation favors good but cheap cars.