Based on data from 19 European countries, including Russia and Turkey, Inovev has estimated overall minicars sales were 1.1 million last year. So, even allowing for strong performances from 2012 newcomers such as the Adam and the Up, the minicar segment as a whole is significantly down compared with the 1.5 million units sold in 2009, when overall volume was boosted by scrappage incentives offered across much of Europe. The scrappage-inflated sales figure of 2009 will remain a one-off, Inovev told Automotive News Europe.
"We don't see sales getting anywhere near the levels seen in 2009," a spokesman said. "This is mainly down to the exceptional circumstances ... when the incentives in some cases made it a no-brainer to upgrade to a new minicar."
Bigger, cheaper cars
However the segment is also now under threat from bigger cars, notably the Dacia Sandero, Inovev said. "For the price of a car in the minicar segment, the buyer can acquire a simpler car but from the segment above," the spokesman said.
Sales of the Sandero soared 71 percent to 121,398 in Europe last year, according to JATO. In Italy the five-door Sandero starts at 7,900 euros. That compares with a base price of 10,610 euros for the smaller Panda and 12,310 euros for the Fiat 500.
Minicar customer are also likely to be hardest hit by economic uncertainty in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain, said Fletcher at IHS. "There's little incentive to upgrade at the moment if they're coming under pressure from the cost of living and fears of unemployment," he said.