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France August 2018: Pre-WLTP stock clearance pulls market up 40%

Nissan has artificially boosted its August volume by 104.4% to clear pre-WLTP stock in France.

* Now updated with the Top 40 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales *

Our August coverage of Spain and Italy showed some pretty striking movements due to stock clearances ahead of the implementation of the new WLTP emissions standard on September 1. The same applies to France, although there is one element to add to the mix: the price increase that the new standard is incurring. Car prices in France are subject to a bonus/malus system that adds or retracts a certain amount depending on their CO2 emissions level. Given emissions tend to be higher under the new WLTP standard, a large swath of cars saw their price increase quite significantly on September 1, another reason to rush sales of non-compliant models before the due date. As a result and almost completely artificially, new car sales in France surge 40% year-on-year in August to 150.391 registrations, the largest result for the month in 18 years, since August 2000 (156.576). The year-to-date tally is now up 8.9% to 1.513.933 units which is the 4th highest 8 month-tally in French history (see table below, the 2018 prediction is calculated by applying the 2018 YTD growth rate to the FY2017 figure).

The 500X (+136%) helps Fiat up 60.8% in France in August.

Annual volume records8 months volume records
2.309.130 (1990)1.610.885 (1990)
2.298.700 (2018 predicted)1.560.914 (2001)
2.274.307 (1989)1.532.030 (1989)
2.268.671 (2009)1.513.933 (2018)
2.254.732 (2001)1.493.813 (2011)
2.217.149 (1988)1.479.548 (2002)
2.212.661 (2010)1.454.281 (2010)
2.204.065 (2011)1.430.761 (1988)

Looking into the detail by channel unveils a lot of artificial activity in August in France. Private sales significantly trail the market but still bounce up 26.5% to 66.600 and 44.3% share vs. 49% a year ago, indicating strong promotion activity to attempt getting rid of pre-WLTP stock through retail. Company sales (including long-term rentals) also advance slower than the market at +22% to 33.500 and 22.3% share vs. 26.5% a year ago. But demo sales, essentially dealers registering cars themselves to later sell them as 0km used, shoot up 93% to 33.000 and 21.9% share vs. 15.9% in August 2017 and short-term rental sales surge 72% to 9.278 units or 6.2% share vs. 5% a year ago.

Renault is up 53.8% and the Captur up 107% to #3.

As we stressed in our Spanish coverage, the carmakers seeing the largest increases in August are the ones that have the most to lose from the new standards, ie whose lineup isn’t yet totally compliant. Accordingly, Renault sales surge 53.7% to 18.5% share, with company sales up 52%, private sales up 37% and demo sales doubling year-on-year but remaining at a reasonable level at 17.2% share. The PSA Group is the only manufacturer to have announced last week that 100% of all its brands lineups are WLTP compliant, and therefore don’t need to clear any stock, showcasing very healthy gains. Peugeot (+16.8%) sees its demo sales up just 27.4% and Citroen (+42.3%) is boosted by very strong private sales (+67.5%) while demo sales are up 57%, much less than the market. Similarly, Dacia’s 46% uptick is fuelled by sturdy private sales up 50% and enables the brand to return to 4th place in July for the 5th time this year and the 7th time ever, but also YTD with a slim 858 sales advantage over Volkswagen, up 34.2% in August.

The Dacia Duster is #2 with private buyers below the Dacia Sandero – a historical first in France.

In the Top 10, Nissan (+104.4%) is the most striking pre-WLTP culprit with demo sales up 353% year-on-year to represent a whopping 57% of its August volume. Fiat (+60.8%) is the only other Top 10 carmaker outpacing the market, with Audi (+39.1%), Ford (+25.9%) and Toyota (+13.7%) posting thinner gains. Porsche (+321.5%), Mitsubishi (+250.8%), Alfa Romeo (+222%), Jeep (+192.9%, 40% are demo sales), Seat (+118.8%), Volvo (+76.9%) and Skoda (+55.5%) all post extravagant gains just below, while a few smaller brands owe their August uplift solely to pre-WLTP stock clearances: 83% of Infiniti August volume is demo sales, 67% of Subaru’s, 55% of Maserati’s, 52% of Mazda’s, 50% of Jaguar’s and 41.6% of Land Rover’s… Opel (+2%) for its part posts one of the smallest year-on-year gains in the entire French market this month, and despite all its lineup already being WLTP compliant, demo sales still represent 38% of it August volume (+39.2%), well above the market’s level of 21.9%.

Artificial boost (1): The Nissan Juke is up 188% thanks to 69% demos sales.

The Renault Clio (+20%) and Peugeot 208 (+26%) trail the market but hold onto the Top 2 spots, followed this month by the Renault Captur artificially boosted up 107% by demo sales up 191% to 23% share and short-term rentals up 271% to 14%, as well as healthy private sales up 61% to 45% share. The Citroen C3 (+33%) and Dacia Sandero (+21%) complete the Top 5 ahead of the Peugeot 3008 (+38%). Thanks to private sales up 116% and demo sales up 229% but weak at 15.6% share, the Dacia Duster leaps up 126% to #7 for the second time in the past 4 months (with last May), its second best ranking below the #5 it hit in November 2011 and February 2013 and only the second time in French history that two Dacias feature in the Top 7 – also alongside last May. A historical first, the Dacia Sandero (+33.4%) and Duster (+116.1%) are the 2 best-selling vehicles in France with private buyers this month: the very first time Dacia manages a 1-2.

Artificial boost (2): The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is up 407% thanks to 43% demos and 30% short term rentals.

The Renault Megane jumps 78% to round up the August Top 8 and the Nissan Qashqai (+105%) artificially breaks into the French Top 10 for the third time ever after March 2013 (#9) and May 2013 (#10). This is due to demo sales up 5-fold on August 2017 to 57% of its volume, one reason being new September pricing under WLTP standards increasing significantly. Similarly, the Nissan Micra is up 99% to #20 thanks to 54% demos and the Nissan Juke is up 188% to #21 thanks to 69% demos. Also notable are the Renault Scenic (+96%) thanks to 25% demo sales up 352%, the VW Tiguan up 150% to #16 with 21% demo sales up 5-fold, the Renault Kadjar (+64%), Toyota C-HR (+98%) breaking its ranking record at #22 (previous best #23 hit first in February 2017) and the Fiat 500X up 136% thanks to 31% short term rentals vs. 29% private sales. Further down, notice also the Fiat Tipo (+95%), Audi Q2 (+81%), Jeep Compass (+753%) smashing its ranking record at #34 (previous best #56 last month), the Audi A1 (+138%) thanks to private sales up 165% to 59.5% of its volume, the Opel Crossland X (+121%) thanks to 49% demo sales and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio (+407%) at 43% demos and 30% short term rentals.

Outstanding success for the Alpine A110. Picture largus.fr

Recent launches (<12 months) comparatively have a slow month as they typically are already WLTP-compliant and don’t benefit from rushed registrations. The Citroen C3 Aircross drops 3 spots on July to #12, the Citroen C4 Spacetourer is down 13 to #36, the Seat Arona remains at #37, the VW T-Roc is down 10 to #43 and the DS 7 Crossback is down 27 to #59. Reversely, the Peugeot Rifter is up 106 ranks on last month to #66, outselling the Partner it replaces for the first time, the BMW X2 is up 18 to a new record #86, the Skoda Karoq is up 5 to #95, the Alpine A110 up 46 to #118 and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross up 25 to #216.

Previous month: France July 2018: Two more days, artificial sales boost market up 18.9%

One year ago: France August 2017: Dacia above VW to rank #4 for the second time ever

Full August 2018 Top 40 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales below.

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