Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) enjoyed a robust month in the UK during April as this lagging market finally turned positive with the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Abarth brands all enjoying double digit gains as they kept track of that growth.
The UK new passenger car market grew 10.4% year-on-year during April, with 167,911 new units registered, according to data released by UK automotive industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
While this positive picture was welcomed by a market that’s been steadily battered over the last year, however, SMMT noted that there were mitigating factors to be taken into consideration: "Demand was affected by a number of factors, including the timing of Easter, which meant two additional selling days this April, and March’s adverse weather, which pushed some deliveries into April. Most significant, however, were the [Vehicle Excise Duty] changes that came into force last April, causing a pull forward into March 2017 and a subsequent depressed April market."
April figures this year paint a mixed picture, with private demand growing 26.3%, while the fleet market remained stable at 0.9%. However, business registrations saw a significant decline, falling by 12.9% compared with the same month last year. Demand for supermini and crossover/SUV cars saw the most significant growth of all segments, up 27.0% and 26.8% respectively.
Demand for petrol cars grew in April, up 38.5%, while diesel registrations continued the recent trend, declining -24.9%. Meanwhile, registrations of plug-in and hybrid electric cars continued to rise, up 49.3%, thanks to manufacturer investment in a growing choice of models.
The Fiat brand sold 2,166 new cars during April which was up 9.34% on the same month last year when it sold 1,981 units, and while this very slightly undershot the overall market’s rise it was a welcome development for the Fiat brand which has suffered a torrid 2018 so far on this market. That added up to give Fiat a 1.29% share of total market sales for the month, virtually unchanged year-on-year. The task for the Fiat brand, FCA’s volume drivre in the UK, is now to firmly cement that uptick going forward over the rest of the year and reverse its year long deep downtrend.
Abarth sold 358 cars during April as it continues to enjoy a strong year in the UK and when compared to the 213 units it sold in March 2017 that added up to an excellent 68.08% rise. It placed Abarth as the third best performing brand in the UK for the month in year-on-year terms, behind only MG (829 units) and niche supercar maker McLaren (55 units). The ‘Scorpion’ brand took a 0.21% share of the market for the month, up from the 0.14% slice it enjoyed during April 2017.
Alfa Romeo also enjoyed a double digit rise and was up 14.72% year-on-year to comfortably beat the market's overall rise, albeit to just 304 units (compared to 265 units it sold in April 2018). Alfa Romeo’s share of the market rose by 0.01% year-on-year to 0.18%.
Finally for FCA, niche luxury brand Maserati didn’t enjoy the market’s rise last month and was down 5.04% to 103 units while the off road focused Jeep brand reversed its downturn this year and was up 31.04% to 477 units.
Despite the significant rise in sales during April, the overall UK new car market remains down year to date, with new registrations in the first four months falling by 8.8%, year-on-year, to 886,400 units. SMMT predicts that “While this level of decline is expected to slow over the course of 2018, political and economic uncertainty will continue to affect the market and further instability could cause additional disruption.”
For the year-to-date the Fiat brand is now on 13,710 sales which is down by 29.9% on the same period last year when it sold 19,558 units. As a result, its market share for the first four months of the year declines from 2.01% in 2017 to 1.55% in 2018.
The Abarth brand has totted up 1,885 sales for the year-to-date, that's up by a quarter (+24.5%) compared to the 1,514 units it sold during the first four month of last year and as a result its market share has jumped from 0.16% to 0.21% year-on-year. It's doing a good job of connecting customers with its range of high performance versions of Fiat brand models and that upward trend seems to be establishing itself now.
Alfa Romeo is having a torrid year in the UK and 1,762 units for the year-to-date is down 11.19% year-on-year (1,984 units for Jan-Apr 2017). It’s decline mirrors the market and so its share of total sales for the year-to-date remains unchanged on 0.20%. With its current product mix a 0.50% market share should really be quite a conservative target so expect to see Alfa Romeo raise its game in the UK significantly over the next few months.
Maserati is down 28.04% to 539 units for the year-to-date while the Jeep brand is has lost 29.46% to 2,205 units for the same period.
Finally, while the market uptick during April was welcomed by everyone, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added a note of caution in a statement released to company the release of the sales data for April. “It’s important not to look at one month in isolation and, given the major disruption to last April’s market caused by sweeping [Vehicle Excise Duty] changes, this increase is not unexpected. While the continuing growth in demand for plug-in and hybrid cars is positive news, the market share of these vehicles remains low and will do little to offset damaging declines elsewhere. Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.”