MUNICH -- Asian brands seized 1.8 points of new-car market share in western Europe in 2003, effectively doubling losses for traditional European brands.
Passenger-car sales in 18 western European countries fell 1.3 percent last year to 14.2 million from 14.4 million in 2002, said ACEA, the European automakers association.
But Japanese and Korean brands boosted combined sales 11 percent to 2.3 million units using a series of new models designed to appeal to European tastes. Asian brands captured 16 percent of the western European market last year compared to 14.2 percent in 2002. For perspective, the Asians' single-year growth of 225,000 units is greater than Volvo's sales of 217,000.
Western European production of Japanese-brand vehicles jumped 10 percent to 691,000 units, according to data from JD Power-LMC. Toyota and Honda led the surge but much of the growth comes from Ford assembling 41,000 Mazda2s in Spain.
Total 2003 sales fell 181,000 units. But the Asian-brand gains meant traditional European automakers collectively lost 406,000 units, or 3.3 percent, to finish with less than 12 million sales.
The six largest European auto groups all lost ground.
It was also a poor year for luxury brands. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo all sold fewer vehicles.
Among European auto groups, only BMW and Porsche posted 2003 increases. BMW group's 1.4 percent gain came almost entirely from an 8 percent rise at Mini. Among individual brands, Saab, Seat, Skoda and Smart boosted sales marginally. Citroen sales rose 2.6 percent to 909,000.
Fiat group's turnaround efforts and new products didn't translate into marketplace success. Combined sales of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati plunged 10.2 percent to 1.06 million units last year, the worst performance by any European group.
Ford group slipped 4.4 percent to 1.56 million sales. The rest of the European groups – Volkswagen, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and MG Rover – all fell into a narrow band with sales losses between 2.4 percent and 2.8 percent.
The 2003 decline was the second consecutive year sales fell in western Europe. Volume was 5.6 percent below the peak 1999 total of 15.1 million. The 14.2 million sales last year was the lowest total since 1997's 13.4 million units.