Nissan claims win in Europe, but Toyota had more sales

The Pulsar is helping to boost Nissan's sales in Europe.
Nick Gibbs is UK Correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Nissan claims it achieved its goal of becoming the No. 1 Asian automaker in Europe by outselling Toyota last year.

The problem is that Nissan says it sold 715,623 vehicles in Europe last year, which is well below the 810,085 vehicles Toyota says it sold in Europe.

So which automaker won? It depends on the definition of Europe.

The winner was Toyota if we look at "core" Europe - the 28 EU member states, along with the three non-EU countries in the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) area: Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Toyota brand sold 565,317 passenger vehicles in the EU and EFTA last year, up 5.8 percent, according to data released by industry association ACEA on Jan 15. Nissan's sales volume grew faster at 16.3 percent but its 557,354 total lagged its rival.

However, Nissan narrowed the gap to just under 8,000 after Toyota topped its rival by 50,197 sales in 2014.

Boosted by new models such as the latest Qashqai compact SUV and Pulsar compact hatchback, Nissan led the race after 10 months but Toyota made a big push late in the year. Toyota regained the overall lead in November and held on in December, finishing 2015 just 7,963 sales ahead of its rival.

The No. 3-ranked Asian automaker based on European sales was Hyundai with a full-year volume of 470,130.

Global manufacturers, however, often take a much wider view than the EU and EFTA for their "Europe."

Nissan’s European market stretches to Russia and Ukraine, while Toyota Europe includes those countries, as well as Turkey, Israel and some central Asian markets such as Kazakhstan.

SUV focus

Nissan’s strength in the fast-expanding SUV/crossover market with the Qashqai and Juke subcompact SUV nearly pushed it passed Toyota, which overtook Nissan as Europe’s top-selling Asian brand in 1998.

But Nissan's focus on SUVs left it trailing in other segments. With the recently launched Pulsar and the new-generation Micra subcompact due later this year, the company is addressing its weak spots.

Toyota Europe’s strength is hybrids. The automaker, along with luxury sister brand Lexus, boosted European sales of hybrid models by 17 percent to 209,000 last year, according to company data. Toyota recently upgraded its hybrid lineup in Europe with the launch of the gasoline-electric RAV4 compact SUV and new-generation Prius.

The Hyundai brand remains a threat to both Japanese automakers. The Korean company says it has more than 85,000 orders in Europe for its new Tucson compact SUV. Hyundai also will launch its Ioniq hybrid following its March debut at the Geneva auto show.

That means Nissan will have a hard fight once again in 2016 if it wants to rise to pass Toyota and hold off Hyundai to truly be able to say that it is No. 1 in Europe.

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