20 July 2019

Mercury USA Sales : 1970's (2nd Half)

A 1977 Mercury Cougar XR-7

The brand was created in 1938 to fit above the Ford brand but below Lincoln. This followed what GM and Chrysler had already done and the Ford company felt the need to do likewise. 65,000 car were sold in 1939 which was a successful start. It became part of the Lincoln-Mercury division that was created in 1945.

By the late 70's Mercury was well established. Sales were over the half million point, approximately three times larger than the Lincoln marque. Below we see US sales by model and further down a brief description of each model.

Model 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975
Cougar 121,184 194,938 182,986 127,913 51,673
Zephyr (Comet) 99,335 120,781 42,234 27,265 43,570
Marquis 94,654 136,719 140,610 105,149 71,540
Lynx 90,850 18,035

Monarch 59,302 78,824 106,821 122,057 94,082
Bobcat 44,674 30,201 35,481 36,365 37,605

see Cougar 46,201
Total US Sales 509,999 579,498 508,132 418,749 344,671
4,079 22,458 29,904 54,586

Cougar: The name was introduced in 1967 as a pony car. By the third generation which was released in 1974, it had morphed into 2-door cruiser to meet changing tastes. Then the next model from 1977 saw it merge with the Montego model with 4-door and wagon body style models added. That certainly seemed to kick sales along.

Zephyr/Comet: The Comet came out in the early 60's as a medium sized car related to the Ford Falcon and Fairlane models. It was initially just known a the Comet but was soon given the Mercury logo. It grew in size but in 1971, the fifth generation car shrunk back in size and was Mercury's version of the Ford Maverick. Then in 1978 it was replaced by the Zephyr, which was based on the Ford Fairmont. 

Marquis: This was the large car of the range, introduced in 1967. The second version ran from 1969 to 1978. The 1979 model was much shorter in length but with interior space better utilised, it was actually more roomier.  

Lynx: While it is listed as an early 80's model, I have data saying it was selling at the end of the 70's. Whatever, it was a European Ford Escort which was a good car but why it ended up as a Mercury Model I have no idea. To me it was not in keeping with the brand.

Monarch: It started selling in 1974 as a compact 2 and 4-door model and lasted until 1980 for just a single generation. It was supposed to replace the Comet, but became a new model in response to the 1973 oil crisis. 

Bobcat: Initially sold in Canada in 1974, it arrived in the US by 1975. It was a rebadged Ford Pinto and was the subcompact car in the range which was replaced by the Lynx in due course. Again, I don't understand the rationale behind this but it had a modest but loyal following.

Montego: It arrived in 1968 as a medium sized range of models and the second edition (72-76) just got into this sales chart. It was then absorbed into the Cougar range as mentioned above. 

Capri: I didn't add this model into the main body of the chart above. They were the same coupe styled car in Europe and sold in Mercury dealerships. This arrangement started in 1970 and ended in 1978.

Summary: Mercury was doing well enough for Ford at this time. (The 1980's will follow).

A 1977 Mercury Marquis. Seriously long

18 July 2019

Oldsmobile USA Sales : 1970's (2nd Half)

The Cutlass Supreme was a top selling model

I was visiting the US some years back and was kindly loaned a Cutlass Ciera by the people I was staying with. Despite that brief introduction, I know little of the Oldsmobile brand as it was exclusively a North American make. Mr Olds started making cars in 1897 and the company was purchased by GM in 1908. Over 35 million Oldsmobile cars were made through its history, until its demise in 2004.

Apparently it was a middle ground brand, between Buick (above) and Pontiac (below). Saying that, the lines between these brands would have been blurred on occasion as the gaps between divisions within GM was small.

First up, the latter part of the 1970's. In the data below, from 1978 Cutlass sales are thereafter divided between it and the Cutlass Supreme.

Model 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975
Cutlass Supreme 404,068 406,993

Eighty Eight 223,699 273,384 225,937 170,857 123,842
Cutlass 114,092 113,286 527,939 514,593 342,875
Ninety Eight 92,075 123,431 123,466 107,147 80,161
Omega 50,098 42,860 51,724 56,324 39,157
Toronado 46,845 28,039 28,860 24,189 20,256
Starfire 18,611 18,351 19,120 27,501 29,354
Total US Sales 949,488 1,006,344 977,046 900,611 635,645

Cutlass Supreme: As the name suggests, it was at the premium end of the Cutlass range, in the mid-sized region of the market. This was a model that commenced in 1967 and was by far the biggest selling in the Oldsmobile range. From 1978 it was the fourth generation model and downsized from its predecessor, presumably the new model differentiated itself enough to have its sales listed separately. 

Eighty Eight: This large car came to being way back in 1949. An eighth generation was introduced in 1977, and kicked sales along nicely. By 1979 a quarter of a million units were sold in the US. 

Cutlass: It was revealed in 1961 and by the fifth generation (1978) this mid-sized car was listed separately from the Supreme for sales and that separation showed it wasn't selling anything like the Supreme version. The '78 model was also smaller than the previous incarnation. 

Ninety Nine: This was the large flagship of the range, which was introduced in 1940. It was the tenth generation that was released in 1977 and was averaging around the 100k sales mark at this time. It also was not as large as its forebear. 

Omega: It was the compact car of the range that came out in 1972/3, although it looked more mid-sized to me. By 1975 the second generation was revealed but this model didn't seem to ever sell that well. 

Toronado: An unusual name was chosen for the up market two-door large car that shrunk quite a bit for the third generation model of 1979. The first model was classy, the second just big and this one compact.

Starfire: Where to start? In 1961, it was a large, sleek two-door convertible and a hardtop variant arrived a year later. In 1975, it was reborn as a 2-door compact hatchback, almost identical to the Chevrolet Monza. Sales were tiny but no doubt cost was saved by sharing it with another GM division. 

Summary: With sales exceeding the million mark in 1978, only Chevrolet and Ford nameplates sold more cars. Oldsmobile was in fine form overall. How would the next decade pan out? The 1980's will follow.

The first generation Toronado was quite a car

13 July 2019

Nissan Europe's Sales Plunge

Nissan Europe's jewel in the crown, the Qashqai

The car markets of Europe are notoriously difficult to make money in. The UK is one of the more profitable, hence why car makers importing from Europe are fearful of a trade barrier. Overall it is a challenging environment that recently had GM pulling out of the region altogether and Ford is realigning its business from volume to profit driven. Honda is now pulling back to become a boutique brand in the region.

Now Nissan is moving away from maximising unit sales to drive profit, as it is difficult to make such a policy work. One assumes that it isn't working for them. So there has been a backing away from volume, as we can see below. Looking at Europe in three traditional regional divisions, comparing a full 2015 with the first six months of 2019. I'm using market share rather than sales as it is a fairer way of seeing the true picture.

East. A couple of nice pluses here from Romania and the Ukraine (these two are not part of the total European figure further down the page). Unfortunately, the two big markets of Russia and Poland are down 33% and 49% respectively.

East 2019 2015 %

Czech Rep 1.0% 2.2% -55%

Estonia 2.5% 8.1% -69%

Poland 2.0% 3.9% -49%

Romania 3.3% 1.7% 94%

Russia 3.8% 5.7% -33%

Ukraine 7.0% 5.7% 23%

South. France has seen a halving of share over this period, which is substantial. Turkey is the only blight light although compared to 2018, share is down a quarter.  

South 2019 2015 %

Cyprus 8.9% 14.1% -37%

Croatia 1.9% 2.2% -14%

France 1.9% 3.9% -51%

Greece 5.7% 8.6% -34%

Italy 2.3% 3.6% -36%

Portugal 4.5% 6.0% -25%

Spain 4.1% 5.3% -23%

Turkey 3.8% 3.6% 6%

West. Two markets are up in tiny Iceland and the Netherlands, with Denmark and Norway not too bad. However, Norway is so far down 50% compared to 2018. Germany has witnessed a 50% fall in share and the UK (Nissan's biggest market in Europe) is down 28%. 

West 2019 2015 %

Austria 1.3% 2.3% -43%

Belgium 2.4% 3.3% -27%

Denmark 3.8% 3.9% -3%

Finland 4.8% 6.7% -28%

Germany 1.1% 2.2% -50%

Iceland 6.5% 5.1% 27%

Ireland 7.5% 9.0% -17%

Luxembourg 1.9% 2.0% -5%

Netherlands 3.0% 2.9% 3%

Norway 4.8% 5.5% -13%

Sweden 2.0% 3.1% -35%

Switzerland 1.7% 2.5% -32%

UK 4.2% 5.8% -28%

Total. For Europe, the 2019 figure is down by a third! One would expect to see a swings and roundabouts scenario, with some countries up and others down which would balance out the average. With share down to this extent from 2015, clearly a policy driven situation. 

You can't blame a car maker for doing what it has to do for its long term benefit. It does make one wonder when and where it will level off though. With production in the UK, Spain, Russia and France, their sustainability could be under pressure if this continues.

Europe 2019 2015 %

Total 2.6% 3.9% -33%