The real sales race in Europe is for second place

Luca Ciferri is an Automotive News staff reporter based in Turin, Italy.
When it comes to new-car sales in Europe, the real race is between the Renault and Ford brands for second place because No. 1 Volkswagen brand's dominance won't be threatened.

Ford finished 2009 as Europe's No. 2 seller, but Renault has pushed ahead through the first two months of 2010.

In February, the French automaker increased its lead over Ford to 12,095 units after being ahead by less than 4,000 units in January, according to data from ACEA, the European automakers association.

Renault is benefiting from fresh products such as the new Megane, but the real reason it leads Ford is because of scrapping incentives in its home market of France, where overall new-car sales are up 16.3 percent to 352,013 units after two months.

Those incentives helped Renault brand increase its overall European sales 41.6 percent to 190,235 units after two months.

Ford has gotten a boost from similar incentives in its top European market, the UK, but it is suffering from the steady decline in German new-car sales – down 19.5 percent to 376,035 units through February. Germany is down because its government's-funded scrapping subsidy ended last September.

With no new subsidy planned for Germany and the UK's program nearing its end, Renault appears a safe bet to end the full year as Europe's second-place finisher.