Ten years ago, Volkswagen and Fiat were forming a new Big 2 in Europe. But things changed dramatically in the 1990s.
The two groups ran a close one-two in European sales in 1988 and 1989, opening a big gap between them and Europe's four other volume carmakers - Ford, General Motors, Renault and Peugeot-Citroen.
Volkswagen was first in 1988, but Fiat declared victory as 1989 ended. 'This year, we're saying that Fiat is No. 1 in Europe,' said a company spokesman in early January 1990.
Final tabulations - completed months later - placed Fiat second, but not by much. The Italian carmaker had emerged as Volkswagen's main rival for European market leadership.
What happened to Fiat? The Italian market shrank, Korean carmakers attacked Fiat's core small-car segments and other Europeans moved into niches that Fiat dominated in the 1980s.
Fiat Auto - including Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati - is now last among Europe's six volume makers. The Fiat brand share went from 10.4 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent through the first 11 months of 1999.
VW Group controlled 15 percent of the market in 1989 and continued to grow - slipping at mid-decade, but regaining momentum in 1995.
Volkswagen is now Europe's stand-alone leader, outselling No. 2 General Motors by more than 1 million units. The group finished 1999 with nearly 19 percent share, compared with Fiat Auto's 9.7 percent.
All four main VW Group brands increased share in the 1990s. Seat grew from 2.3 percent in 1990 to 2.7 percent in 1999. Skoda rose from 0.2 percent to 1.2 percent; Audi went from 2.6 to 3.4 percent; the Volkswagen brand from 10.6 percent to 11.5 percent.
OTHERS SEE LITTLE CHANGE
Despite 10 years of jostling, there was little change in the competitive position of the other four volume makers. Renault moved up and Ford has dropped back, but they remain closely matched with PSA and General Motors. GM peaked at mid-decade but has drifted back near to where it started the 1990s.
The combined Japanese share is unchanged in the last 10 years - 11.5 percent share in 1989, 11.5 percent in 1999. But Koreans made an impact, rising from one-tenth of a percent of the European market in 1990 to 3.1 percent in 1999.
Ford began the decade as the best-selling single brand in Europe. But by 1999, sales of Ford-branded cars in Europe lagged behind three other individual marques - Volkswagen, Opel/Vauxhall and Renault.
Mercedes-Benz's European market share grew from 3.2 percent in 1989 to 4.6 percent last year, the biggest proportionate gain of any European brand in the 1990s.