Kia Motors Corp. was the hottest carmaker in Europe in June, and Spain continued to be the fastest-growing major European market.
Kia sales grew 49 percent to 15,610 units compared with the same month a year ago. The South Korean carmaker has been entering niches and adding diesel engines to its lineup. The small Picanto, launched in May, is its latest new-segment entry.
Kia's first-half sales rose 19.4 percent compared with the year-ago period. Six-month sales for all Korean brands rose 22.3 percent compared with last year. Their Japanese rivals grew 12.1 percent.
Overall, the 26-nation European market grew 3.5 percent to 8,284,850 units in the first half, according to ACEA, the European car manufacturers association. Sales last month rose 4.7 percent compared with June 2003.
Ford Motor Co.'s sales recovery continued in June. Ford group sales in Europe increased 10.5 percent during the month and are up 4.9 percent for the year. Jaguar sales rose 36.4 percent in the first half, and Ford's Volvo brand was up 16.6 percent. Adding diesel engine and station wagon versions of the X-type helped Jaguar. Ford brand sales rose 1.7 percent for the January through June period, but its market share slid from 8.5 percent to 8.4 percent compared with the first half of 2003.
General Motors' struggling European operations did not fare as well as Ford's, dropping 0.2 percent in the first six months. Only Saab, up 3.9 percent, showed a gain among GM brands.
BMW up, Mercedes down
In the luxury sector, BMW sales improved 7.5 percent for the first half. BMW continued to outpace rival Mercedes-Benz, whose sales dropped 4.4 percent during the first half compared with 2003.
Smart, up 15.1 percent in the first six months, was the main bright spot for DaimlerChrysler.
Spain had the strongest growth of Europe's five major markets, with sales up 14.6 percent for the first half and 15 percent for June. Sales in Italy grew 3.1 percent, while UK sales were up 2.2 percent.
Sales in France were down 0.1 percent, and sales in Germany declined 1.3 percent.