Peugeot 2008

Portuguese car market 2021: the numbers

Portugal is a small but interesting car market. Let’s look at the numbers of the last 12 months.

After the Awards of two weeks ago, I believe it makes sense to look at the wider market and take a peek at what the Portuguese customer bought this past year, especially since 2021 was an historic year.

Historic not because it was a record year for sales – it most definitely wasn’t – but because, for the first time since the year 2000, there is a different car maker at the top of the standings.

After a staggering run of 21 years as Portugal’s best-selling brand, Renault have been relegated to second position by none other than their biggest French rivals: Peugeot. But let’s crunch some numbers and try to make sense of the choices made.

A total of 180,277 cars were sold in Portugal last year, an increase of just 1.9% when compared to 2020. Now, it is important not to forget that, just when the market was finally bouncing back from the doldrums it got itself into in the 2009-2010 crisis, the pandemic struck and tore it down again.

In 2019, it had reached 267,828 units, the second-best result since 2010 (2018 was the best with 273,313 cars), whereas in 2020 the market lost 33% for obvious reasons. It now faces the same issues as most other segments: the chip shortage. Time for a small side note.

When people got sent home in early 2020 and started working remotely, it became pretty clear what they were going to buy in the short-term: things that would make their home life more appealing. Enter a completely crazy time when there were not enough TVs, iPhones, iPads, refrigerators or dishwashers to go around.

New cars? Not so much. So that’s where the chips went – appliance factories, not car factories. Consequences are now being felt globally as there are more new customers than new cars for sale.

Therefore, 2021 wasn’t as good as it could have been for that reason. Yes, demand is still not at 2019 levels, not even close, but it’s not just 1.9% up on 2020.

Also, Portugal is a very small market and car makers are not going to prioritise us over, say, Germany, France or Spain, so that’s another relevant factor.

Back to topic: Peugeot. What a year they had, didn’t they? 17,595 cars sold, an 11% increase year-on-year and a market share of 12%. Renault, the previously undisputed champion of the 21st century, achieved 15,439 units delivered and had to settle for second place. Why? Well, to me it’s all about expectations. I believe a Peugeot is currently more closely aligned with what customers perceive as a modern car than a Renault.

From the body design to the infotainment solutions, Peugeot have hit the jackpot and created a catalogue of cars that are simply more desirable than Renault. Their investment in the 2008 and 3008 SUVs was absolutely the right one, but they did not discard the importance of the smaller 208, the most distinctive car of its segment (besides those two stablemates of design, the Mini and the Fiat 500).

Moreover, even if people are not flocking to electric cars yet, there is an electric 208 and an electric 2008 and that matters, as it shows Peugeot is at the forefront of technology. One car, several options. It just works.

Mercedes have kept their third place of last year, but with a 17.2% decrease in sales. The 11,383 cars the Stuttgart constructor sold meant 120 units more than fourth place rival BMW. However, the team from Munich is on the up, posting a growth of 7.1%. Fifth place went to Citroën with 8,644 cars sold.

Also relevant is the fact Mercedes-Benz is the leader in electrified vehicles, selling 4,402 hybrid and EVs. As for pure electric cars, we bought 13,364 of them, 70% more than in 2020. Tesla led that table, finding 1.612 new clients.

Looking at the individual models, the Peugeot 2008 was the best-selling car in Portugal last year, the first time an SUV gets that accolade. The Clio put Renault in second position and the Captur in third, whereas Peugeot returns in fourth with the 208. Mercedes wraps up the Top 5 with the A-Class.

On another side note, at the upper end of the spectrum, Aston Martin sold 34 cars, Bentley 26 and Maserati 25, one more than Ferrari and 12 more than Lamborghini. So that’s Portugal. A lot of French cars mixed with the premium Germans and only a handful of luxury items.

Globally though, Toyota remained the world’s biggest car maker for the third year running, even surpassing General Motors in the States for the first time in history. Also very worthy of mention is the fact the chip shortage didn’t stop some names from achieving record numbers: BMW sold 2,213,795 cars in 2021, their best year ever, while Porsche did the same with 301,915 units. There has never been this much money in the world and premium names are surfing that wave as best they can.

2022 will probably see a healthy market recovery. Let’s see about that in 12 months’ time.

By Guilherme Marques

BMW 1 Series
Citroën C3
Mercedes A-Class
Peugeot 2008
Renault Clio