Sales data released by JATO shows that the premium brands performed relatively well in Europe's declining new car market last year.

JATO's market data is consistent with that released earlier this month by LMC Automotive and ACEA. However, it adds some brand and model detail.

Amongst the top ten brands, only premium German brands Audi and Mercedes-Benz ended 2012 with no decrease in car sales in Europe. JATO said that the positive performance was primarily due to new and refreshed models such as the new Audi A3, Q3, A6 and the Mercedes B-Class and M-Class.

The Volkswagen Golf continues to be Europe’s best-selling car, despite a sharp drop of 11.1% in 2012 sales compared to 2011. Even with a 12.7% drop the Ford Fiesta overtakes the Volkswagen Polo for second place in 2012, while the Volkswagen Polo comes in third, with sales down 19.8%.

Commenting on the findings, Gareth Hession, Vice President, Research at JATO said: “Despite the challenging economic conditions across Europe and at home, there is clearly still appetite for new offerings from premium German brands. Other brands are also benefiting from new products such as Hyundai and Kia for example, where their latest vehicles show that consumers continue to look for innovation as well as value for money.”

There was some cheer in the December figures for the under-pressure French manufacturers.

Following the launch of the new Peugeot 208 in 2012, it finished the year with sales of over 155,000 units. Renault’s new fourth generation Clio has also been well received, with the model claiming third place for December 2012 and increasing its share of the market.

The BMW Series 3 has also performed very well last month with sales up 20.9% compared to last year. It ended the year with a sales increase of 8.4%.

Hession added: “The Peugeot 208 has been climbing steadily up the sales chart since its launch earlier in 2012, claiming second place for the month behind the Golf is a very strong performance, demonstrating PSA’s ability to deliver a highly competitive and desirable product.”