Italy's sales decline takes us back to 1979

Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's Editor-in-Chief.Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's Editor-in-Chief.
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Italy car sales last year fell 20 percent to 1.4 million units, the country's worst result in 33 years. Back then, domestic automakers had a dominating 61.7 percent share of the market, in 2012 they controlled just 29.7 percent.

In 1979, Fiat brand sold 641,967 cars in Italy and had a 46 percent share of the market. Last year Fiat sold 294,778 cars and its share was 21 percent.

Wonder why Alfa Romeo is in so much trouble? Consider this: The Fiat-owned brand sold 106,074 cars in Italy in 1979. It's unlikely Alfa sold that many cars globally in 2012. In Italy, the brand's 2012 total was 42,174 sales.

Where did all those Alfa buyers go? To Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Last year, the German trio sold a combined 135,840 vehicles compared with just 35,806 in 1979.

Thirty-three years ago Asian automakers controlled a tiny piece of the Italian car market as Korean brands were not exporting to Europe and the Japanese faced an import quota. In 2012, Asian brands had a 17.1 percent share in Italy. Toyota was Italy's No. 1 Asian brand with 55,178 units sold, while Hyundai-Kia was the country's biggest Asian auto group with a combined 70,478 sales.

In 1979, Renault was Italy's top-selling non-Italian brand, followed by Citroen and Volkswagen. Last year, VW was the No. 1 foreign brand, ahead of Ford and Citroen, with Renault slipping to sixth place.

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