Renault narrows sales gap with Opel in bid to be Europe's No. 2 brand

Renault's new Captur is now the brand's second-best selling model in Europe.
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FRANKFURT -- Renault is narrowing its European sales gap with rivals in its bid to rise to No. 2 from No. 4 in the next three years. To get there it will need to pass third-ranked Opel and current No. 2 Ford. 

In April, Renault Europe Chairman Stefan Mueller told Automotive News Europe that Renault aims to be Europe's No. 2 brand by unit sales by 2017.

Renault's sales are increasing at a faster pace than rivals, helped by the popularity of new models such as the Captur subcompact SUV.

Renault's five-month European sales rose 12 percent to 363,363 compared with a 7 percent rise for Opel to 378,591, according to JATO Dynamics.

This means Renault was 15,228 sales behind third-placed Opel, nearly halving the 27,356-unit difference that separated the brands over the same period last year.

Market leader Volkswagen brand sold 684,527 units, a rise of 3 percent, while Ford's volume rose 7 percent to sold 424,317.

Reinvigorated lineup

Deutsche Bank analyst Gaetan Toulemonde said the Captur is helping Renault to boost sales. "Renault has increased the capacity for the Captur, which offers a clear picture about how well the model is selling. Before, Renault was looking at 150,000 units of capacity and now they are looking at 250,000 units in production so that is 100,000 units incremental," Toulemonde said.

Also, the Captur is not cannibalizing the Clio subcompact hatchback, he said. The introduction of the next Espace minivan and Megane compact car line will further help to reinvigorate Renault’s sales and profits, Toulemonde said.

Growing demand for subcompact SUVs helped sales of the Captur, which was launched in April 2013, reach 66,231 through May, according to JATO, making the crossover Renault’s second best-selling model after the Clio.

Opel rebound

Opel is benefiting from new models such as the Mokka subcompact SUV and Adam minicar. The brand is also rebounding in Germany, where its market share is picking up. In the booming UK market, Vauxhall has defended its position as the second-largest brand after Ford.

Opel is benefiting an upturn in many European markets, Peter Christian Kuespert, the brand's sales boss, said in a recent press release.

Sales of the Mokka rose 56 percent in the first five months to 50,508, making the Mokka the carmaker's No. 3 best seller. Sales of the Adam rose 42 percent to 22,913, JATO said.

Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said at the Geneva auto show that his aim is for Opel to become the No. 2 carmaker in Europe by 2022.

Ford's profit focus

Ford says its focus is on boosting sales to private retail buyers and smaller fleet customers, which are more positive for brand image and residual values.

Asked about rivals' sales goals, Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell told Automotive News Europe at the launch of the Edge SUV on Wednesday: "I will let the commentators decide whether No. 1, 2 or 3 is important. We want a sustainable business with sustainable profitability."

Bruce Gain and Nick Gibbs contributed to this report

VW stays in front
Five-month European sales of Europe's top 10 brands, with % change from the same period in 2013.

1. Volkswagen 684,527 +3.0%
2. Ford 424,317 +7.2%
3. Opel/Vauxhall 378,591 +7.4%
4. Renault (exclude Dacia) 363,363 +11.7%
5. Peugeot 347,110 +7.9%
6. Audi 318,980 +5.9%
7. Mercedes 273,688 +3.8%
8. BMW 280,588 +4.6%
9. Citroen 274,054 +4.3%
10. Fiat 266,344 +0.8%
Source: JATO Dynamics

You can reach David Jolley at djolley@crain.com.

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