Editor's letter: Star car brands emerge during chip shortage

MG 4 Lexus NX Honda HR V Cupra Born front quarter tracking

MG and Cupra (upper left; lower right) are star performers but Lexus and Honda (upper right; lower left) have faltered

Cupra has doubled its year-on-year sales in the UK to just over 12,000

The UK sales charts have for a while now not been a measure of who has been able to sell cars that month but rather of who has been able to fulfil orders that were made long ago.

The ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips has, as we all know, led to an increase in waiting times and seriously constricted supply, making the sales charts a bit of an irrelevance month to month as an indicator of which manufacturer has done well.

Yet over a longer period of time, some stories and trends can still emerge. Buried in the data are stories of winners and losers that aren’t all to do with chip shortages.

One of the star performers is Cupra. It doubled sales in 2022 to just over 12,000 (to the end of October), which is almost four times that of DS. The comparison is a relevant one, because the two occupy similar positions and ethos in the market in being brands derived from a mainstream marque (Seat and Citroën respectively) and are growing at impressive rates. Yet Cupra is growing by more and faster, despite having been playing in this space for only half as long as DS. It’s a brand on the fast track to success. 

The same too could be said of Polestar, which has sold just shy of 5000 cars and itself pulled clear of DS. But a breakout year hasn’t been had by Genesis, whose first full year on sale in the UK has brought 638 sales to the end of October – although that’s still 20 more than Maserati.

Given the immense success and continued progress of Kia and Hyundai (up 9% and 19% on 2021 respectively, but on Kia remember it’s the bigger brand in the UK, having sold 20,000 cars than its nominal parent company year to date, and even more cars so far than Toyota), Genesis’s Korean bosses could perhaps expect more. Yet it’s far too early to judge Genesis, and the excellent GV60 electric SUV is bang on in its market positioning. The GV60’s success or otherwise will likely dictate that of Genesis, too.  Things are at last looking rosier for Dacia in the UK. Bosses at the start of the year were scratching their heads as to why the progress of the brand had stalled in the UK as opposed to on the continent, where its runaway success shows no sign of slowing down, yet the prevailing economic mood means the market has come to Dacia. 

Dacia’s 23,000 sales are 58% up on last year, putting it fewer than 2000 behind parent brand Renault, whose own sales have remained flat in 2022. Chips can only explain so much here, and the fact that Renault is seeking to reinvent itself and overhaul its model range with boss Luca de Meo’s Renaultution plan is an acknowledgment it is in a bit of a rut both with both the brand and its models. 

Honda would hope to be doing far better than being 10% down on last year at this stage (its 22,000 sales make it only marginally larger than Mazda), especially given that it’s the first full year on sale for the new HR-V, a smart small SUV pitched right at the heart of such a popular segment. 

Also wishing for better, chips aside, would be Lexus, whose sales have fallen 37% to just under 8000, despite having the well-positioned and of-its-moment electric UX 300e. Fiat, too, would be wanting more than just 3% growth with the first full year of its electric 500, as would Jeep, which is now selling plug-in hybrids but has still seen its sales drop by almost half. Roll on the Avenger

Credit to Mini for growing its market share and sales in 2022 without a new model and with its core hatchback near the end of its life; to Porsche for adding 36% to its sales in 2022 to grow to be around a third bigger than Jaguar and almost as big as Suzuki; and to Tesla, which has put another 45% on its sales this year to grow to have Mini, Land Rover and Skoda immediately above it in the sales chats.

Best in class goes to MG, whose growth from 25,000 to 43,000 has been the story of the year. Those sales numbers put it ahead of Skoda and within sight of Peugeot

Car sales overall remain down, some 5.6% on 2021 to the end of October versus 2021, and a third on pre-pandemic levels, according to SMMT figures, and the strong order books suggest that third could easily be plugged in a normal world.

But just who would have plugged those sales remains open to debate, as it’s clear the market hasn’t stood still. When normality (whatever that means) does return, don’t expect the same brands to slot into the same places in the sales charts.

Source: Autocar

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