MILAN -- Italian car sales are expected to have slipped slightly this month from a strong October last year as home-grown Fiat and rivals flood the market with new models to woo buyers, industry watchers said on Thursday.
The Transport Ministry is due to release car registration figures on November 5 and the industry experts said there may have been a boom in sales in the last two days of October as automakers sell cars to fleets and dealers in a tooth-and-nail fight for market share.
"We are probably going to be close to last year's figures despite a still unfavorable economy," said industry group Centro Studi Promotor, adding that a spate of promotions were helping whip up interest in buying a new car despite a shaky economy.
October will be the first full month that the new Fiat Panda has been in the showrooms. But the small van-like car, a key model in loss-making Fiat's turnaround plan, is battling a raft of new rivals such as Ford's C-Max, which has been well received in Italy.
Fiat's market share fell to an all-time low of 27.15 percent in September which it put down to people waiting to buy its newest models. The Panda went on sale last month while the Lancia Ypsilon has been in showrooms for weeks.
At the beginning of last year, Italian car sales were in free fall, deepening a crisis at Fiat and forcing the government to offer people incentives to swap their old polluting cars for new eco-friendly ones.
In October 2002, the incentive program was in full swing, propping up weak sales so they fell only 3.9 percent year on year to 190,600 units.