Car registrations fall
NEW CAR registrations are down 12.15 per cent so far this year, according to the latest figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (Simi).
It says 74,158 new registrations took place up to the end of August, with Toyota as the biggest brand in terms of registrations (at 9,381), just three new cars ahead of Volkswagen on 9,378. Ford is third with 8,021.
VW claims that when personally imported new cars are taken out of the registration data, its brand is number one. That would be the first time VW has topped the new car market for more than 20 years.
Whichever registration data you rely on, VW’s increasing market share was aided by a surge in registrations in the last three days of the month – accounting for 38 per cent of VW’s August registrations.
At Toyota, a similar trend in the last three days saw 39 per cent of its August registrations occur. It is clear a race is on between the Japanese and German brands to finish the year on top.
VW will be hoping to bolster its position next year due in part to the launch of the latest version of its most important car, the Golf. The seventh generation of its popular family hatchback is unveiled in Berlin tomorrow.
“The Golf has a pre-eminent role at VW because of its high production volumes,” VW brand development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said recently. “It is the face of VW.”
VW has made it clear its global ambition is to overtake Toyota and General Motors to become the world’s biggest car brand. To do so, it needs to succeed in the all-important hatchback market.
It faces stiff competition, not only from the established mainstream brands, but also from a host of premium marques aiming to lure customers upmarket.
Meanwhile the one-time discount brands from Korea have rapidly closed the gap in terms of quality and design.
To attract luxury buyers, VW is touting a higher quality cockpit finish in the new Golf, with more screens and driving assistance gadgets aimed at fending off a sporty replacement of Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class and the new BMW 1-Series introduced last year.
This may still not be enough to keep the competition at bay.
“The European [compact] market is fully saturated and the Golf keeps attracting competition, even from within the VW group,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Centre for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg- Essen, citing the Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. “It’s no synonym for future growth.”
There are also signs the company is worried about the Korean brands.
With its affiliate Kia Motors, Hyundai is outgrowing the market during a severe downturn by offering stylish models at affordable prices backed by savvy – if sometimes risky – promotions and helped by a cheaper currency.
VW views Hyundai as a serious contender globally.
Checking out a Hyundai model at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, chief executive Martin Winterkorn was caught on camera examining the steering wheel adjustment and saying: “Nothing rattles . . . why can they do it? BMW can’t. We can’t.”
The YouTube video has had almost 1.8 million hits. – (Additional reporting: Reuters)