The last time that the VW Golf was knocked off the top of the European best sellers table was when the new Golf IV came in too slowly to meet demand and the Fiat Punto sneaked ahead, mainly because the Italian market was going bananas at the time. This time around it is the Punto that will be struggling to meet demand as the new model garners healthy and encouraging reviews, but that doesn't mean that the Golf is in the clear because suddenly the GM Opel/Vauxhall Astra has become a real threat. Opel may have lost its position as being Europe's top selling marque, but it is showing that the matter isn't entirely over and done with yet. Whilst the Golf is showing its pedigree with sales up 9.5% to 554,700 from 506,600 in the first nine months in Europe, Astra has boomed by 35.0% to 548,800 from 406,500 and the scene is being set for quite a battle.

Volkswagen were stung when they lost the top spot to Punto, but at least there was a good reason. Ferdinand Piech ruled that it was more important to get the product right than it was to score points, and he was absolutely right. But that was then and now the product is right and it is available, so second place this year would be seen as defeat rather than very high sales that someone else happened to better. The gap between the two models was 100,000 at the same point last year. As at the end of September the gap was just 6,000 units. Opel/Vauxhall have been offering some tempting incentives on the Astra whilst to date VW seems to have been allowing market demand to dictate sales. But that could change over the closing months if VW decrees that it is very important to be the one on top.

Previously Volkswagen would probably have resisted following the incentives route, but they have already gone there with the Passat and the Polo, so there is a good chance that Golf will be supported, especially as VW have warned that marketing costs are beginning to hit the bottom line.

The Fiat Punto has dropped to fifth place in the table from a very clear second place last year, but that situation will change early in the new year. The Opel Corsa is in decline too early for comfort. Corsa is due for replacement, but not until later next year and with the Peugeot 206 in very high demand and the VW Polo just receiving a facelift, Corsa could easily fall another two places at least in the top ten.

Of the forty or more marques that contend in the European car market, only 8 have a presence in the top twenty, but only one Japanese model (the Nissan Micra in 29th place) features in the top thirty. Volkswagen has three top models and they are all in the top ten. Fiat, on the other hand, demonstrates again that its problems are not just restricted to relying heavily on one market. Fiat is the only one of the top six marques to only have one model in the top twenty.

BMW has only one with the 3 Series in 13th place, but that can be regarded as a mark of success because neither Mercedes-Benz nor Audi can get a model into the upper bracket. Renault, on the other hand, has four models in the top twenty, and that is why they have been able to move above the Ford Group into second place in the groupings table.

Only one model in the top ten (VW Passat) is not in either the Lower-Medium or Small Car sector. Three of the top four models in the table are in the Lower-Medium Sector - VW Golf, Opel Astra and Ford Focus. New model changes for those three do not occur until 2003 and 2004 and with only the Peugeot 306 of the more notable L-M contenders due to change in the next twelve months, we do not anticipate many upsets at the top of that sector.

In the Small Car sector, the new Punto has just been released and should soon be chasing the Renault Clio, but again, only the Opel Corsa will be changed in 2000. In fact, after two very hectic years on the new model release scene, the year 2000 is not going to be all that exciting for a lot of people because most of the activity seems to be slated to occur in the upper sectors or in the niche sectors of the market.

Western Europe

Top 50 Best Selling Cars

Make & model

9 mths
1999

9 mths
1998

%
Change

VW Golf

554700

506600

9.5

Opel Astra

548800

406500

35.0

Renault Clio

382500

304600

25.6

Ford Focus

370300

600

61616.7

Fiat Punto

362900

437600

-17.1

Opel Corsa

353400

389100

-9.2

Peugeot 206

331100

23800

1291.2

VW Polo

274400

335000

-18.1

VW Passat

257400

270100

-4.7

Renault Mégane

252300

247700

1.9

Ford Fiesta

247000

308700

-20.0

Opel Vectra

237500

295600

-19.7

BMW 3 Series

235300

184600

27.5

Peugeot 306

215400

253900

-15.2

Citroën Xsara

207300

187800

10.4

Citroën Saxo

187200

185400

1.0

Ford Mondeo

186500

249800

-25.3

Renault Mégane Scenic

184200

213400

-13.7

Peugeot 406

170700

161700

5.6

Renault Laguna

157400

142500

10.5

Renault Twingo

153800

146300

5.1

Audi A4

152000

165200

-8.0

Mercedes A Class

138300

80500

71.8

Fiat Seicento

137000

50000

174.0

Ford Ka

133200

163500

-18.5

Seat Ibiza

130900

123800

5.7

Fiat Bravo/Brava

129100

153300

-15.8

Mercedes C Class

126800

157100

-19.3

Nissan Micra

119000

120000

-0.8

Mercedes E Class

111800

129700

-13.8

Toyota Corolla

110200

128700

-14.4

BMW 5 Series

105600

118700

-11.0

Peugeot 106

103300

226800

-54.5

Audi A3

97600

97000

0.6

Audi A6

97600

97100

0.5

Fiat Panda

97300

99300

-2.0

Citroën Xantia

96200

102900

-6.5

VW Lupo

91400

700

12957.1

Ford Escort

90500

325700

-72.2

Volvo S40/V40

90100

98200

-8.2

Lancia Ypsilon

89400

111300

-19.7

Toyota Avensis

88400

92800

-4.7

Rover 200

80700

107300

-24.8

Alfa Romeo 156

78900

75000

5.2

Nissan primera

77800

91500

-15.0

Škoda Octavia

76400

46500

64.3

Nissan Almera

75900

89700

-15.4

Honda Civic

74700

113300

-34.1

VW Bora

72600

700

10271.4

Toyota Yaris

72200

0

inf

 

Western Europe

Second 50 Best Selling Cars

Make & model

9 mths
1999

9 mths
1998

%
Change

Seat Cordoba

70700

65500

7.9

Mazda 323

70000

69000

1.4

Daewoo Matiz

67600

10200

562.7

Škoda Felica

64400

73300

-12.1

Fiat Marea

61800

74600

-17.2

Rover 400

55100

87300

-36.9

Daewoo Lanos

54200

60100

-9.8

Seat Toledo

53900

32200

67.4

Renault Espace

53000

49000

8.2

Opel Zafira

52200

0

inf

Volvo S70/V70

51500

66800

-22.9

Mazda 626

49200

65800

-25.2

Ford Galaxy

47800

47400

0.8

Hyundai Atoz

47800

33300

43.5

Mercedes CLK

45000

32900

36.8

Land Rover Freelander

44000

26300

67.3

Opel Omega

43600

59100

-26.2

Hyundai Accent

42700

51900

-17.7

Mitsubishi Carisma

41000

51000

-19.6

Suzuki Swift

40200

38700

3.9

VW Sharan

39200

40900

-4.2

VW New Beetle

38500

100

38400.0

Fiat Palio

37900

45400

-16.5

Honda Accord

37000

23200

59.5

Seat Arosa

35200

38200

-7.9

Saab 9-3

34000

23500

44.7

Volvo S80

31800

1600

1887.5

Mercedes SLK

30400

29600

2.7

Mitsubishi Space Star

29400

500

5780.0

Audi TT

29000

100

28900.0

Fiat Multipla

28900

100

28800.0

Mercedes S Class

27100

7200

276.4

Mitsubishi Colt/Lancer

26900

38900

-30.8

Opel Frontera

26600

13900

91.4

Saab 9-5

26600

20100

32.3

Honda CRV

26100

30200

-13.6

Mazda Demio

25800

4400

486.4

Ford Puma

24400

27500

-11.3

Chrysler Voyager

24200

26000

-6.9

Daewoo Nubira

22600

25700

-12.1

Alfa Romeo 166

22300

600

3616.7

Suzuki Baleno

21500

26700

-19.5

BMW Z3

21200

24000

-11.7

Toyota Landcruiser

20700

18400

12.5

Nissan Terrano II

20500

20700

-1.0

Alfa Romeo 146

20000

29200

-31.5

Mazda MX-5

18600

14000

32.9

Hyundai Lantra

18600

22200

-16.2

Ford Cougar

18200

100

18100.0

Seat Alhambra

18100

15100

19.9

Grand Totals

11900000

11250000

5.8