PARIS -- Europe's second biggest carmaker, PSA Peugeot Citroen, posted a slight rise in 2004 worldwide unit sales on Friday, driven mostly by growth outside western Europe, and predicted a similar performance this year.
The maker of the Citroen Xsara Picasso and the recently launched Peugeot 407 family car said in a statement it was aiming for a "moderate increase in sales" in 2005, when it will launch a number of new models.
The French automaker said that it had sold 3.375 million cars and light vehicles in 2004, up 2.7 percent from 2003. That was in line with its earlier forecast for a "modest increase".
Global sales of Peugeot vehicles rose almost 6 percent to 2.027 million units, while its smaller stablemate Citroen saw sales fall 1.8 percent to 1.348 million units.
However Citroen chief Claude Satinet predicted unit sales growth for his brand for the year under way.
"Our estimate for 2005 is for moderate growth, between 1.4 and 1.45 million units," he told reporters.
Separately, Peugeot brand head Frederic Saint-Geours told a news conference that Peugeot aimed to boost unit sales by 50,000 vehicles in 2005, and sought a return to growth in western European market share.
"We have a target for moderate growth in our sales of around 50,000 extra sales in 2005," he said.
INROADS IN WESTERN EUROPE?
"We are going to try to increase our market share in 2005 (in western Europe)," Saint-Geours said.
Overall, PSA's sales in its key western European market fell 1.9 percent to 2.412 million vehicles in 2004, giving it a market share of 14.7 percent compared with 15.4 percent the year before.
"2004 was a year of transition for the group, impacted by major renewals of the Peugeot and Citroen lineups during the year," PSA said of the region's performance.
"The decline in sales reflects this transition as well as a commitment to favoring margins over volumes in an aggressive marketplace," it added.
Vehicle manufacturers faced tough market conditions in western Europe last year, as lackluster consumer spending, rising raw material costs and mounting price pressures from overseas carmakers weighed in.
Outside western Europe, PSA sold 951,000 vehicles in 2004, up 16.3 percent on 2003, with particularly strong demand from Latin America.
But sales in China faltered after nearly doubling between 2001 and 2003.
Unit sales dropped 13 percent due to price cuts, increased competition and slower growth, but PSA said it expected to return to growth in China in 2005, when it will introduce the Peugeot brand there.
The former star of the European sector hit hard times in 2003 when its profits fell for the first time since 1998 as it struggled to sell an ageing model range in a weak market.
On Thursday, domestic rival Renault posted a 4.2 percent rise in 2004 unit sales, and a 0.3 percent rise in sales in western Europe.