SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Volkswagen sales in Brazil slid 18.5 percent in 2003, knocking it back to the No. 3 spot behind Fiat and General Motors.
Among the five biggest automakers, only Ford posted higher sales last year. Ford's sales jumped 14.2 percent over 2002, helped by demand for its new Ecosport small SUV.
Automakers in Brazil say they expect solid gains in production and sales this year, helped by steadily declining interest rates.
Brazil's auto sector has suffered as the central bank raised interest rates to a four-year high to slow inflation, dragging the economy into a recession in the second quarter last year.
But the bank has slashed rates by 10 percentage points since June to 16.5 percent, spurring consumer demand.
|2003 Brazil sales and production|
|Sales*||% Chg||Production||% Chg|
|*Includes light commercial vehicles such as vans, pickups and SUVs|
Despite being buoyed by record exports of more than 514,000 units, production rose just 1.3 percent to 1.7 million units.
The industry trade association Anfavea expects output to rise 9 percent this year to 2.0 million units.
Brazilian exports last year expanded 27.8 percent to 514,422 vehicles spurred by 2002 auto trade agreements signed with Mexico and Chile.