LONDON -- Germany's premium automakers are benefiting most from a boom in UK car sales that has far outpaced the recovery in the rest of Europe.
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are winning sales and market share from mass-market manufacturers such as Ford Motor and General Motors' Vauxhall brand after expanding their lineups and offering more fuel-efficient vehicles, analysts say.
UK car sales increased 11 percent to 1.29 million in the first half. In June, the market was up 6 percent year-on-year, the UK's 28th consecutive month of growth after the country bounced back faster than other western European countries following the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The UK has passed France as the region's second-largest car market after Germany.
As in the rest of Europe, the German premium brands are aggressively pushing into smaller car segments traditionally dominated by volume automakers. Mercedes is expanding its compact lineup with the GLA crossover and BMW is adding the 2-series Active Tourer compact minivan. Audi recently added a sedan version of its A3 compact to its UK lineup.
The combined UK market share of Audi, BMW and Mercedes is a little more than 17 percent after all three increased share during the first half.
Jonathon Poskitt, LMC Automotive’s head of European sales forecasting, said increased consumer confidence as the UK economy picks up and a wider choice of models are helping to lift premium car sales. “The greater feeling of wealth means that car buyers are increasingly looking to the more expensive badges,” he said.
Audi’s UK chief, Andre Konsbruck, said new fuel-efficient versions of the A4, A5 and A6 cars sold under the Ultra badge are “attracting considerable attention” from fleet buyers.
The 2.0-liter diesel A4 Ultra sedan has CO2 emissions of 109 grams per kilometer. "Demand for Audi in the UK has never been greater," Konsbruck told Automotive News Europe.
Fleet sales account for a little more than half of all new-car sales in the UK and CO2 figures are a key selling point as road taxes are based on a car’s CO2 emissions.
Ford, the UK’s top-selling brand, saw its market share decline to 13.5 percent from 14 percent in the first half even as its unit sales increased by 6 percent (see chart, below).
Vauxhall, the No. 2 brand, saw its share fall 0.4 percentage points to 11 percent despite 7 percent growth in volume.