2021 was the year of SUVs: who are the winners and how Dacia ranked

Europe’s best-selling cars in 2021: Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Toyota SUVs made big gains, while VW Golf and Ford Focus suffered sharp declines in sales.

The compact Hyundai Tucson SUV recorded the highest percentage increase in sales of any model in Europe last year, ending just ahead of the Tesla Model 3, according to new data.

Tucson sales rose 65 percent to 149,786, ranking 13th in Europe’s top 50 retailers, according to Dataforce figures.

Launched in late 2020, Tucson has met Hyundai’s high expectations for the model. In fact, it ended 2021 as the best-selling compact SUV in Europe.

Three other compact SUVs were among the top 50 winners based on percentage increases in sales. These were Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4.

Tucson surpassed the Tesla Model 3, which increased sales by 62% to 17th place overall. The Model 3 was best-selling in Europe in December and September, according to Dataforce.

Priority SUVs during the chip crisis

SUVs have benefited from carmakers’ decisions that have favored them over less profitable body types, such as hatchbacks and station wagons.

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“Many automakers have given priority to higher-margin models, which could accelerate trends in SUV and EV sales,” said LMC Automotive senior analyst Sammy Chan.

One of the biggest losers in terms of sales was Volkswagen Golf. VW had to interrupt production of Golf several times at its factory in Wolfsburg, as the lack of chips prevented normal production. Despite this, the compact hatchback managed to maintain its first place overall, despite sales falling 27% last year to 205,720.

The worst-hit model in the top 50 was the Ford Focus compact hatchback, which saw a 45 percent drop in sales, leaving it in 33rd place overall.

Demand for the Golf is likely to have been affected by sales of VW ID3, ID4 and other compact electric vehicles of the VW Group, said Chan from LMC.

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“There is an argument that VW has given priority to components limited to electric vehicles, where possible, to help them reach their CO2 target,” he said.

The VW Group announced at the end of last month that it had exceeded its European CO2 target for 2021, helped by its momentum for electric vehicles.

Dacia Sandero an exceptional year

The race for second place behind the Gulf in European general sales was incredibly tight last year. Only 2,731 sales separated the second place, Dacia Sandero, from the 2008 Peugeot in fifth place.

Sandero’s impressive finish came after demand for the newly revised small hatchback rose 18% last year, helping him outperform the Peugeot 208 in third place and the Renault Clio in fourth.

Renault’s weak 2021 was exacerbated by an 11% drop in sales for the small Captur SUV, leaving it in 11th place with sales of 159,085.

Overall, the chip crisis and continued disruption caused by COVID-19 infections have affected the European car market, which has fallen by 1.5% to 11.8 million, according to the ACEA industry association.

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