Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) suffered a big slump to its sales in Europe during the final month of last year, dropping 16% to underperform a mildly negative market, however for the full year the Italian-American carmaker finished comfortably positive, up 5.1%.
FCA added 62,219 sales in Europe (data counting EU member nations plus the EFTA signatories) last month, a bleak performance that compared unfavourably to December of the previous year when sales amounted to 74,115 units. That represented a hefty drop of 16.1%, triple the overall market’s decline, and means FCA's European market share slipped from 6.2% in December 2016 to 5.5% last month.
All FCA's Italian brands fell during December with that slide led out by the Fiat brand which endured a terrible month as it lost one fifth of its sales to end December with 43,360 units sold. Compared to 54,241 units sold in December 2016 that meant a year-on-year fall of 20.1% to end the year on a poor note. As a result, market share was down from 4.5% to 3.8% year-on-year.
Of equal concern was the performance of Alfa Romeo which unexpectedly slumped 7% to 5,727 units during December compared to 6,160 units it achieved during the final month of the previous year. With the Stelvio crossover now in the showrooms alongside the Giulia sedan the brand's year-on-year sales should be significantly up and that will cause alarm amongst Alfa Romeo executives; they will have to guide the brand very quickly upwards over the next few months. Alfa Romeo's European market share as a result remained static year-on-year at 0.5%.
Lancia, now confined to the Italian market and reliant on the ageing Ypsilon model held out well in the circumstances; it added 3,152 sales in December to fall 29.6%. The luxury brands, Ferrari and Maserati, shifted 736 units during December, down 24% on the previous year when the pair sold 968 cars. Finally, FCA's Jeep brand enjoyed a positive December, up 11.8% to 9,244 units.
For the full year just gone FCA took full advantage of the positive mood in Europe to sell a total of 1,044,714 units, up 5.2%. Significantly, it reversed a long decline and put the carmaker back above the one million units mark having declined to 992,812 units in 2016.
It also put FCA back as the fourth biggest carmaker in Europe having slipping well behind BMW in 2016, albeit it outsold the German carmaker last year by just two thousand units to regain the spot. FCA beat Europe's dominant car making group, VW, in year-on-year growth terms as the German company was up by 2.1% while it also came out on top of BMW, up 1%, and Daimler, up 5%, for growth although it lagged behind Renault, Peugeot-Citroen and Toyota in these terms.
Fiat brand had a decent full year, up 4.5% to 779,534 units and its share of European sales was up as a result by 0.1% to 5%. Alfa Romeo also had a strong year to put on almost twenty thousand units and 29.5% to finish the 2017 having sold 85,691 cars. Lancia was down 9.6% to 60,805 units while Ferrari and Maserati, combined, saw their sales climb up 22.3% to 10,029 units. Finally, Jeep brand was up three and a half thousand units and 3.5% to finish the year on 108,655 units.
Overall in 2017, European demand for new cars grew (+3.4%) for the fourth consecutive year, reaching more than 15 million new passenger cars registered for the first time since 2007. Among the five big markets, Italy (+7.9%) and Spain (+7.7%) recorded the strongest gains, followed by France (+4.7%) and Germany (+2.7%). By contrast, last year demand for cars in the United Kingdom declined (-5.7%) for the first time in six years. Noteworthy is the strong performance of the new EU member states, where registrations went up by 12.8% during the year.