Watching the ups and downs of the UK car market is relatively easy, but getting an understanding of wider global car markets is not so simple.
So with the expert help of IHS Global, whose international network of car industry analysts mine deep into market data, Autocar has put together some key findings. Although China dominates the global auto market for volume of sales, India will be the global stand-out for growth in 2016, with its new car market expanding at twice the rate of China’s. But who would also have predicted that growth in the Italian market would exceed China’s?
Compact crossovers and SUVs are also shaping up as the success story of 2016, bucking the total market trend in four of the seven major regions. One place not to be selling new cars, however, is Brazil, where economic woes have knocked the market for six.
2016 - 3.44m units (+10.3%)
Super-hot segment: sub-compact crossovers (+202%)
Sub-compact SUVS are making a huge impact in India, with the segment expected to nearly treble to 325,000 units this year. New entrants like the Hyundai Creta and Renault Kwid are pushing the market as greater political stability and a strong economy encourage new car buyers to move away from hatchbacks and saloons. However, the story for premium brands is not so good. The ban in city centres of diesel engines over 2.0 litres is hitting premium sales. Overall, though, sales will be buoyant and the market is expected to grow twice as fast as last year.
2016 - 4.99m units (+1.1%)
Hot segment: kei cars (+3.5%)
In a market that’s expected to flatline in 2016, it’s hard to single out a winning market segment. But a minor winner will be kei cars, the city cars designed to comply with Japan’s urban parking regime. They’re forecast to buck the trend by recording double the growth of the whole market and reach 1.55 million, reflecting the return of demand after a 17% slump in sales last year. Tax changes, including a VAT hike in 2014, laid waste to the market last year. It is a great irony that kei cars actually sell in bigger numbers in rural areas, where they are prized by Japan’s huge workforce of small-holding farmers. Many will need new kei cars after postponing purchases last year.
2016 - 25.51m units (+5.5%)
Hot segments: compact crossovers (+7.5%) and sub-compact crossovers (+3.6%)
Chinese new car buyers are already moving on from traditional saloons to SUVs, echoing a trend that has taken hold in Western markets. The hot sellers in China this year will be affordable five-seat compact crossovers, typified by models like the Baojun 560. So popular are they that 4.3 million – the same size as the UK and French new car markets combined – will be sold this year. However, the 2016 increase will slow to 7.5%, compared with the 40% market growth in 2015. Again, in context, a ‘slow’ 7.5% is twice the growth forecast for the entire French car market this year. A second SUV segment, for sub-compact models, is also on fire in China, although the numbers are smaller. The 4.1-metre-long Jianghuai Refine S2 is the prime example. Last year, one million sub-compact SUVs were sold, almost twice as many as in 2014, thanks to numerous launches.
2016 - 17.48m units (+2.1%)
Hot segment: muscle cars (+6.1%)
Low fuel prices are expected to give the muscle car segment a boost this year, with an extra 17,000 being sold to take total sales to 304,000. A revamped Ford Mustang will drive the growth in this segment. Cheap fuel prices will also keep sales of SUVs and pick-ups buoyant, with four-cylinder engines increasing segment share to 54%. As a whole, the US car market will keep growing, but not as quickly as last year.
2016 - 1.91m units (-23.1%)
Warm segment: B-segment crossovers (-6.3%)
Brazil’s economy is not in a good place, which is reflected in an expected drastic reduction in new car sales this year. IHS forecasts the loss of 573,000 units in 2016, dropping below two million units to 1.91m as consumers lose confidence and banks tighten lending. Despite the sales collapse, there are a few bright spots: premium car sales are “posting positive momentum”, partly because prices have held steady, and sub-compact SUVs will decline at a slower rate than the market overall. The Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade, for example, command waiting lists, despite the market meltdown.
2016 - 1.17m units (+2.2%)
Hot segment: full-sized crossovers (+8%)
Australia’s new car market this year is one of contrasts: declining sales of the traditional V8 saloons that have come to define Aussie motoring since the 1960s against the rising popularity of full-sized, family-friendly SUVs. In number terms, that means saloons heading for a near 6% drop while SUVs enjoy a 17% rise. By 2017, nearly two big SUVS will be sold for every big saloon. Back in 2014, it was one for one. Thanks to low fuel prices, V8s are still popular. For example, the new Ford Mustang enjoys a 60% bias in favour of the V8. GM’s Holden brand, meanwhile, has pulled back on the launch of the Camaro, which now looks set for a 2022 debut.
Germany, 2016 - 3.25m units (+1.2%)
Super-hot segment: B-segment crossovers (+19%)
Italy, 2016 - 1.69m units (+7.0%)
Super-hot segment: B-segment crossovers (+29%)
Modest growth is expected in the large and diverse European car market in 2016. For wider trends, it’s worth looking at specific markets. Europe’s biggest car market, Germany, will almost flatline this tyear, with predicted growth of 1.2%, down from the 5.8% rise of last year. The real story, though, is Italy. It is expected to add an extra 111,000 new cars this year. Buyers who have put off sales are now returning to the market as the effects of the recession subside. Like Germans, Italians are flocking to B-segment (supermini-sized) SUVs, which are expected to take one in nine new car sales in Italy this year.