PARIS -- Growth outside Europe drove Renault unit sales up in the first half of 2005, but sales in its key western European market slipped, hampered by sluggish demand and its aging line-up of Renault-branded cars.
The world's fourth-biggest carmaker said on Tuesday its sales should accelerate in the second half of the year, however, driven by the success of its no-frills Logan and the launch of a remodeled Clio. It reiterated its full-year margin forecast.
Renault said sales totaled 1.356 million vehicles in the half versus 1.308 million in the same period last year, giving it a global market share of 4.2 percent.
"These numbers are exactly in line with what we were expecting. The second quarter was slightly better than the first, but all their growth is coming from outside Europe," a London-based analyst said.
Sales in Renault's western European market fell 0.8 percent over the period to 971,407 vehicles, hampered by lackluster spending and the aging of key models such as the Megane, Clio and Twingo.
The quirky Megane model, whose popularity helped the carmaker weather tough market conditions in recent years, saw sales drop over 5 percent, or by more than 20,000 vehicles, in western Europe versus the first half of 2004 as newer models grabbed the limelight.
Western Europe's market remains far from buoyant as it continues to struggle against weak consumer spending, high raw material and fuel costs and hefty price competition from overseas manufacturers.
Despite a 5.6 percent rise in France in the first half, and rises in Spain and Italy, analysts said it was too early to talk about a full-blown recovery in the region.
DACIA SOARS ON LOGAN
Outside Europe the picture was brighter, with sales up 16.8 percent to 384,214 vehicles.
Sales of Renault-branded vehicles dropped 0.6 percent over the period to 1.219 million units, but Renault subsidiary Dacia, which makes the Logan, saw sales surge 89.5 percent to 79,068 units.
Renault said the Logan's success would be a key factor in delivering faster growth in the second half, when it plans to introduce the car in Russia, Morocco, Africa and eight western European markets.
The company also said it had no reason to alter its full-year target of achieving an operating margin of at least 4 percent.
Renault's major launch of the year, the remodeled Clio III, due for release in the autumn, should provide some support to sales later in the year, analysts said, although its impact should be seen more in 2006 than 2005.
Renault's rival PSA Peugeot Citroen posts its first-half unit sales on Wednesday before the market opening.