Volkswagen less popular in Belgium
Sales of Volkswagen in Belgium were down 4,4% for the first 11 months of this year compared to 2016, according to Febiac data. Since may the VW-importer D’Ieteren sold less Volkswagen cars every month compared to 2016, with a worrying low of -17% last November.
According to spokesman Jean-Marc Ponteville of D’Ieteren, the regression is due to the late launch of the new Polo, one of the stronger selling products in VW’s Belgian portfolio. “The old ones were sold out and the new models hadn’t arrived yet, so we were several weeks without Polo’s,” explains Ponteville.
The figures of importer federation Febiac learn us other things too. The problem seems to be the Tiguan compact SUV, which sold a quarter less than last year. Remarkable if you see the popularity of this kind of SUV’s. Ponteville says that this is due to longer delivery terms and that in the end they will sell more this year.
Nevertheless Volkswagen is needing additional SUV models apart from Tiguan and Touareg (which will be renewed next year). They’re coming soon: the T-Roc (Golf-based) is arriving now, the T-Cross (Polo-based) comes in 2018.
Looking for reasons
Not only VW struggles to deliver (waiting lists or no appropriate models available yet), some competitors are doing very well. In the segments of the small and the compact SUV’s Renault sold 11.000 cars, almost double of the Tiguan sales. More worrying maybe for Volkswagen is the competition it gets from its sister brands.
The new SUV’s from these makes (Audi Q2, Seat Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq) sell extremely well and now the venue of other models reinforces this, for example the Seat Arona and the Skoda Karoq. Those makes offer more or less the same cars for less money and that hurts VW, who is also still suffering from 2015’s Dieselgate scandal.
Volkswagen brand image damaged
Volkswagen suffers for at least two reasons. First of all, there seems to be a delayed backlash from Dieselgate. In 2016 VW still sold 11% more cars than the year before in Belgium, but now you can observe that the blame for misleading communication (where approximately all manufacturers have to plead guilty) is mostly put on Volkswagen. Secondly VW is strongly linked with the diesel engine and people now tend to hesitate to buy a new diesel car.
Market researcher BrandAsset Valuator remarks that VW “is lacking in innovation, customer focus, social implementation and honesty”. On the contrary it has still an aura of reliability and quality and it remains the most popular make in Belgium. That’s because direct competitors like Renault (-5,7%) aren’t doing well either in total sales, partly due to the pressure so called premium makes are putting on the lower segments of the market.
Audi (+3%), BMW (+5%) and Mercedes (+11%) all sold far more than in 2016, which was already a very good year for them. Like other “generalists” Volkswagen is suffering from being squeezed between those premium makes (with whom it tends to be associated, also in pricing) and the rise of “low cost” makes like Dacia, Nissan or Fiat (who are gaining more than 10% in sales).