New-car sales in Western Europe increased 3.6 percent in January over last year, to 1.3 million units.
The January data marks an increase in growth after a slowdown toward the end of 1999. ACEA, the European automakers' association, said favorable economic climates helped fuel double-digit growth in Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Spain and Finland.
It wasn't all good news, however. New-car sales in Denmark fell 18.1 percent year-on-year to 8,485 units, the lowest figure for January since 1994. ACEA said the decline was because of slackening consumer demand, together with an increase in the car tax effective Jan. 1.
New-car sales in Germany, Western Europe's biggest market, also slumped in January. Sales in January 1999 were particularly strong.
'In absolute terms, the level reached (in Germany) can still be considered as good,' ACEA said.
The Volkswagen Group sold far fewer cars in Germany in January than one year previously. A decline of more than 10 percent on the domestic market meant VW also lost market share in the whole of Western Europe. There were particularly high sales declines for the VW at 15.9 percent and Audi at 7.7 percent. The group includes Seat and Skoda.
By contrast, Fiat Auto saw its share of the Western European market improve in January with the sale of 162,799 vehicles, up 28.1 percent in the same month in 1999. The group's three main brands, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia, all increased sales.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen also registered an increase across Western Europe. The group was up 11 percent to 163,273 units.
In the United Kingdom, January new-car sales improved by nearly 2 percent to 185,040 units over the same month last year, although the bulk of purchases were from fleet managers rather than private retail buyers.
WAITING FOR PRICE CUTS
According to figures from the United Kingdom's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the number of new cars bought privately during the month was 67,807, 11 percent down on the corresponding month last year. United Kingdom consumers are widely believed to be holding onto their money in anticipation of price cuts. There continues to be widespread publicity about price differences between the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.
Japanese new-car sales in Western Europe rose 6.7 percent to 152,843 units in January 2000, compared with January 1999. That equates to an 11.8 percent market share. Toyota had a strong showing in the first month with a 35.5 percent growth in sales, largely because of the popularity of its Yaris supermini. Mitsubishi posted an 11.6 percent increase.
South Korean new-car sales in January 2000 grew by 28.9 percent compared with the same month a year ago. South Korea's share of the western European car market grew to 3.4 percent, up from 2.7 percent in January 1999.