The global semiconductor crisis has done what even the $30 billion Dieselgate crisis couldn’t do – unseat the Volkswagen Group from its Number One throne in Europe.
According to data analytics firm Dataforce, the chip-starved Volkswagen Group suffered the ignominy of falling to second place behind French-based global conglomerate Stellantis.
Stellantis, the merged entity of Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, toppled the mighty Volkswagen by just 693 vehicles in 2021, according to Dataforce.
With figures collated from 31 European countries, including the 27 EU nations plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and the UK, showed Stellantis delivered 3,161,594 cars and vans in Europe in 2021.
Volkswagen fell just short of them, with 3,160,901 sales.
Still, Stellantis sold fewer passenger cars than Volkswagen, with the German-based company selling 511,365 more than its French-based foe.
The difference was that Stellantis shifted 722,702 light commercial vehicles – some 512,119 more than the Volkswagen Group, to overtake them.
While Volkswagen has been steadfast in its position as European market leader for decades, it would also have lost out to Stellantis in 2019, by more than 100,000 deliveries – except the Group didn’t exist back then.
Stellantis was created early last year, pulling together PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Vauxhall and DS) and FCA (Jeep, Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, RAM, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Abarth), under the day-to-day control of ex-PSA head Carlos Tavares.
By contrast, the Volkswagen Group’s last brand addition was Cupra, which was the liberation of Seat’s performance brand in 2019. The Volkswagen Group sells the Volkswagen, Seat, Cupra, Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley in Europe, having sold its Bugatti hypercar brand to Rimac last year.
Volkswagen has already admitted that its 2021 delivery figures were the worst in 10 years, placing the blame squarely on its struggle to find enough semiconductors to fill its order banks.
“The lagging supply of semiconductors caused limitations in production throughout the course of the year, which ultimately had a major impact on the unit sales figures,” the Volkswagen Group’s sales and marketing head, Klaus Zellmer, said.
Of all the players on Volkswagen’s bench, only Porsche and Seat saw sales rise in 2021, and Group sales fell 5% in Europe, but 15% in China and 12.4% in the Asia-Pacific region.
The troubled Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance trailed in third place in Europe, at some distance behind its rivals. The Alliance’s 1,788,939 sales has fallen and is now under more threat from the charging Hyundai-Kia Group, which surged to 1,020,687 sales for the year.
From there down, though, the sub-million sales rankings are very close.
Ford strategically prioritized its semiconductor supply to commercial vans in 2021, because they generated more profit margin than the car business, and the Transit became the UK’s best-selling vehicle in the last two months of 2021.
Ford sold only 558,932 passenger cars in 2021, placing it eighth, but its 337,880 light commercials boosted it to fifth place in Europe.
Daimler charged into sixth place outright in Europe – some feat for a brand that sells expensive luxury cars – with archrival BMW nipping at its heels.
BMW comfortably outsold Mercedes-Benz in passenger cars, though, with 860,265 sales to the Stuttgart manufacturer’s 682,598, but was rolled over by the 198,240 light-commercial vans.
Oddly, BMW sold 1409 light-commercial vehicles, but can’t explain why. European rules for passenger cars dictate a maximum laden capacity of 3500kg for vehicles with eight seats or fewer. Any more than that and it becomes a light-commercial vehicle.
However, BMW’s heaviest series production cars are the X7 xDrive50i and the xDrive40d diesel, both topping out at 3295kg. Even the heaviest new iX EV SUV has a maximum laden capacity of 3145kg.
Toyota, Geely and Suzuki filled out the European top 10.