Ford increased its European market share in 2008 by 0.1% to 8.6% despite falls in traditional markets such as the UK, the company said today.

Ford, Europe's second best-selling vehicle brand, credited its strong product range, in particular the redesigned B segment Fiesta, for the strong performance.

"In a difficult economic environment, we were able to improve our overall market share last year thanks to the strongest product line-up in our history, and the early success of our new Fiesta," said Ford of Europe chairman and CEO John Fleming.

"We believe this strength is a key factor in helping us to deal with the challenge of the deep economic crisis for as long as it lasts, and will allow us to take full advantage of an upturn in demand when it does arrive," he added.

The company increased share in 15 of its main 19 European markets. 

"Even with a deep industry decline in traditionally strong markets like the UK and Spain, Ford of Europe increased its full-year 2008 market share across its main 19 markets by 0.1 percentage points to 8.6%," a statement said.

The company said the redesigned Fiesta had got off to a particularly strong start. Two months after going on sale in late 2008, more than 61,000 had been sold in the main 19 European markets, making it the second best-selling Ford model behind the Focus.

"This gives us real confidence that the Ford brand will emerge even stronger when the economy rebounds," said sales and marketing head Ingvar Sviggum. "With our newly introduced small and fuel-efficient Fiesta and Ka models, we are in a great position for when that happens."

Ford last month sold 90,500 vehicles in Europe, down 19.7% or 22,200 units year on year.

However, market share in these countries remained stable at 8.4%. Contrary to industry trends, it increased sales in four of its 19 main European markets: France, Portugal, Finland and Switzerland.

Top selling models there were the Focus (20,300), Fiesta (18,600) and Transit (10,500).  In France, the Fiesta, S-Max and C-Max were the best-selling imported vehicles in their segments.

In all 51 European markets, Ford sold 118,300 vehicles, down 25.6%.