Mazda consolidated its European revival in the first three quarters of the year with sales up 33.5% to 158,435, from 118,702 in the same period last year. The Western European market overall was down by 1.5% in the same period.

Mazda sales in September were up by 10.2% in a market that showed an encouraging trend as it climbed 4.4% over September 2002.

This gave Mazda a 1.6% share of the Western European* market for the month and a 1.4% share for the nine months overall, according to the latest provisional figures from ACEA, the European automobile constructors' association. Last year, Mazda had a 1% market share.

The nine-month performance puts Mazda on track for a 2% market share "in the medium term," according to Dan Morris, president and chief executive officer of Mazda Europe.

He believes that Mazda will be able to maintain its momentum through 2004 with a full year of 323-replacing 3 and RX-8 sales.

In the UK, sales so far this year have increased by 32.3% to 30,596. September was a record month with sales of 7,186, the highest single monthly figure for Mazda in its 30 years in the UK.

"We expect to end the year with 39,000 sales," said Jeremy Thomson, marketing director for Mazda Motors UK.

With the 3 due to be launched in the New Year and a full year of RX-8 sales, the momentum should continue. He expects 12,000 3 sales with the range getting a boost in mid-year when the 110PS diesel models arrive. These will be powered by a diesel engine from the Ford-PSA joint venture.

A full year of RX-8 should see at least 6,000 sold. "We've already taken orders for 1,454, each with a £1,000 deposit. In Germany, where Mazda sales are double the UK, only 600 RX-8 have been ordered so far," said Thomson.

He is encouraged by the fact that 90% of the orders for RX-8 are from customers new to Mazda. "They are mostly people crossing over from premium German marques."