Europe’s most popular car is now the Peugeot 208 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 29th March

Europe’s most popular car is now the Peugeot 208

The Volkswagen Golf loses the top spot after 14 years

Published: 02 Feb 2023

The UK car market is not the only one enduring a car production slump. Europe is also recording year-on-year decline but the downshift is also seeing a change in contenders at the top of the best-selling charts. The Peugeot 208 is now Europe’s most popular car, knocking the VW Golf off its perch.

And perhaps surprisingly, the Golf hasn’t fallen to second place, but fifth, with the Dacia Sandero in second place, the T-Roc - Europe’s best-selling SUV - and the Fiat 500, primarily in its electric guise, completing the table.

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Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics, which released the report, said: “The success of the Golf is owed to the fact that it was able to meet the needs of a wide range of consumers without leading in any given parameter. But times change, and today consumer priorities are quite different from some years ago.”

These days, there’s a greater selection of cars available at the Golf’s price point. Often VW is up against its own stablemates. The T-Roc, Cupra Formentor, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq all rival the hatchbacks' smaller proportions with their SUV appeal and, usually with generous levels of standard kit to boot.

Greater electric vehicle uptake accounts for much of the positive news. JATO highlighted the success of MG. The brand, with a vivid and well-established history in the UK, is now Chinese-owned and accounts for a large portion of the increased Chinese-branded car sales in Europe. In 2022, MG sold more cars than Jeep and Honda, likely down to the brilliant MG4 and other strong performers in the MG range.

Despite the fact the 208 is doing well, parent company Stellantis is taking hits on other brands in its portfolio, namely Citroen, Fiat and Vauxhall. BMW, Skoda, Suzuki and Volkswagen have seen a decrease in European sales when compared with 2021, too. In contrast, Kia, Tesla and Toyota have been seeing continued growth.

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According to JATO, the reasons for the production downturn are the same as the UK’s difficulties, namely, the chipset shortages, disruption to the energy sector and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, making production and getting raw materials tricky.

Munoz said: “Shortages of new vehicles at dealerships, inflation, and the energy crisis all proved to be major challenges for the already troubled market last year. The fallout of the pandemic, followed by the semi-conductor shortage throughout 2021 and 2022, was only compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent energy price increases, impacting consumer confidence and spending.

"A competitive product offering and reasonable sales targets are allowing Chinese brands to make inroads into the European car market. The next step is to build awareness and encourage the shift away from the negative sentiment that has historically dissuaded some consumers from buying Chinese products.”

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