VW kicks Ford off No. 1 spot

Volkswagen returned to its traditional place as the top-selling brand in the European Union in April after being overtaken by Ford for just one month.

In the 27-country EU, Ford brand outsold Volkswagen brand by 1,298 units in March, selling 168,611 new cars compared with VW's 167,313, according to industry body ACEA.

In April, VW sold 138,304 new-cars in the EU, a 7.7 percent decline while Ford's sales fell nearly 20 percent to 87,721 units. In fact, Renault with 99,642 sales and Peugeot with 88,721 units sold were ahead of Ford.

Ford sales were hit as scrappage schemes that have boosted sales of the company's smaller Fiesta and Ka models finished or were wound down in key European markets. Renault and Peugeot increased sales, helped by their strong domestic French market and by the launches of new products.

Ford's strong March result was largely due to the company's exceptionally strong performance in the UK, which is Ford's largest European market, and which was also Europe's biggest car market in March.

Germany was once more Europe's largest market in April with 259,414 cars sold, followed by France (190,917); Italy (159,971) and the UK (148,793).

VW brand has some more good news because the Golf has again become Europe's best-selling car. In the first quarter, the Ford Fiesta was almost 4,000 units ahead of the Golf with Fiesta sales up 22 percent to 140,877 units while the Golf was up 13.1 percent to 136,900, according to Jato Dynamics. But in the first four months VW sold 186,202 Golfs in Europe compared with Fiesta sales of 173,096.

People taking advantage of scrappage bonuses preferred to buy less expensive, smaller cars so the Golf compact benefited less than the Fiesta subcompact from the incentives. The Golf's return to the No. 1 spot is another sign the traditional order is back in place as the effects of scrapping incentives fade away.

By the way, the Golf was Europe's best selling model five times in the past decade (2000, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2009), according to Jato. Peugeot had the top spot three times (with the 206 in 2002-2003, with the 207 in 2007) and the Opel/Vauxhall Astra twice (2005-2006).

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