MILAN - Italian car sales are expected to edge lower in February against the same month in 2003 when they were helped by state incentives, industry sources said on Wednesday, adding Fiat's market share was seen broadly flat.
"New car registrations should come in around 205,000 to 208,000 units, against (a revised) 212,000 in February last year," one source said. He warned sales in the last days of the month could distort the estimate.
Fiat's slice of its key domestic market was seen ticking down to 29.5 percent to 30 percent, from 30.9 percent in January.
Transport Ministry figures for February sales, along with revised figures for 2003, are due on March 3.
Another source estimated the sales fall at some 5 percent against 2003 and said the first two months of 2004 should be "close in line with 2003."
Figures from research group ISAE on Tuesday showed consumer confidence in February hit a new low as Italians worried about slow economic growth and corporate scandals including the near collapse of food group Parmalat. In February 2003, car sales rose 8.1 percent to 214,100 units, according to provisional data, helped by government incentives to buy eco-friendly cars.
"The market is not brilliant and reflects the general economic situation," the source said. "But there is some stability which is explained by...the attraction of many new products and by ongoing offers of cheap loans."
Gianprimo Quagliano of industry think tank Centro Studi Promotor added: "The signs are that it will be a market almost in line (with last year), or with a very slight contraction."
He said Fiat should add to its good start to 2004, compared with 2003 when it saw a slide in its market share after a flood cut production at its Termoli engine plant.