Provisional data released today by the association of European carmakers (ACEA) suggests that a late surge in West European passenger car sales occurred in December to leave the figure for the month 11.5% ahead of last year at 988,392 units. However, ACEA acknowledged that December's boost had much to do with the ending - real or perceived - of incentives in some markets, notably Italy and the Netherlands.

ACEA also pointed out that December 2002 had one more working day than December 2001, helping to accentuate the year-on-year gain further.

Over the year as a whole, ACEA's figures show a decline in the West European passenger car market of 2.9% (2.8% in the EU) to 14.39 million units; a figure that ACEA said 'is better than what most forecasts predicted, in the current economic context'.

Over the year as a whole most of Europe's large national markets recorded declines (Spain -6.6%, Italy -5.9%, France -4.9%, Germany -2.6%) although the UK market was up by 4.3% to exceed 2.5 million units - a new record. 

 The ACEA figures are in line with the figures issued by LMC/JD Power last week (published by just-auto at http://just-auto.com/features_detail.asp?art=767).

Besides the finalisation of some figures that may be provisional in LMC/JD Power's monthly analysis, the ACEA figures provide additional manufacturer detail.

Volkswagen Group was, once again, Europe's clear market leader. However, it saw its share reduced on sharply weaker sales under the Volkswagen marque.

Notable share gainers included PSA, Toyota (incl. Lexus), BMW and Ford. Fiat Group saw its market share collapse to just 8.2% in spite of the Italian market's incentives boost in the final quarter of the year. GM also saw its share decline significantly.

To see the ACEA figures in detail, visit www.acea.be/ACEA/press_releases.html.