Dutch car sales reached 510,744 in 2002, down 3.7% from the previous year, Reuters reported, citing the Dutch automotive industry association RAI.

For 2003, sales are seen decreasing to about 480,000 due to an expected economic downturn, Reuters added.

According to Reuters, the RAI said the 2002 figure had come in higher than the 500,000 it had previously expected.

Towards the end of the year, sales were boosted because buyers made use of government subsidies on energy friendly cars, Reuters noted.

General Motors' Opel remained the Netherlands' favourite car brand in 2002 but sales dropped by almost 20% to 55,220, Reuters said.

According to Reuters, Renault's Dutch sales rose by 7%, sending it two places up on the best seller list to second position, while rival French marque Peugeot also rose two positions to end at number three with sales up 4.2%.

Reuters said previous Number Two, Ford, fell to fourth place with steady 2002 sales.

According to Reuters, the big loser in Holland during 2002 was Volkswagen whose sales plunged 17%, pushing it three places down the list to number five.