MUNICH -- European passenger-car production was virtually unchanged in the first six months, but the performance of individual automakers rose and fell dramatically.
The most obvious example was MG Rover, which has produced no cars since production stopped April 7 at its plant in Longbridge, England. In the first six months last year, the British automaker built 59,469 Rovers and MGs. During the same period this year the number fell to 29,104.
But MG Rover's decline in importance in Europe is reflected in the numbers. Its lost production was less than one-third of 1 percent of the European first-half total of 9.46 million units. And in absolute numbers, MG Rover's lost volume was much smaller than unit gains at BMW, Renault and General Motors or unit losses at Volkswagen group, DaimlerChrysler and Fiat group.
Overall, European car output fell 2,564 units in the first half, a tiny 0.03 percent from the same period in 2004.
The first half has been a poor period for most luxury brands, hit by sluggish demand in Europe and export sales weakened by the strong euro and pound.
BMW brand is the major exception, producing 473,448 vehicles in Europe, up 14.2 percent. But that jump mostly was the result of an 80,000-unit gain from the launch of the 1 series, BMW's least expensive model.
Meanwhile, rival Mercedes-Benzs output fell 4.9 percent or 24,762 units to 483,417 vehicles. Audi lost 11,752 units or 2.9 percent to 388,940 vehicles. On a percentage basis, UK-based Jaguar did far worse, dropping 28.2 percent to 50,591 as X-Type production declined more than 17,000 units.
Still, there were several bright spots in the first half.
French automakers gained volume. Led by 145,000 units of the C4, which was introduced last year, Citroen gained 28,000 units in total production. This helped PSA/
Peugeot Citroen manage a gain of almost 3,000 cars. Renault gained 38,935 cars or 3.7 percent, although the improvement was entirely because Romanian subsidiary Dacia boosted production of its hot entry-level Logan.
Toyota, Suzuki and Nissan all added volume in Europe.
A June boost in volume helped Russian automaker AvtoVAZ post a narrow 632-unit gain in the first half.
Production also rose more than 30,000 units at GM Europe's Opel/Vauxhall unit, helping the group to a 26,800 car, or 3 percent, increase.