The Ford Fiesta has become Europe’s best-selling car, beating the Volkswagen Golf into second place in both March 2010 and year-to-date sales, according to data released by Jato Dynamics.

In total, 68,630 Fiestas were sold in March 2010, a 25.8% rise in sales, vs. March 2009 and 11,785 more than Volkswagen’s second-placed Golf, the firm says.

Year-to-date, Fiesta is also ahead, selling 140,496 to Golf’s 135,048, reversing the picture from Q1 2009, but continuing a pattern where Fiesta has closed the sales gap to Golf through 2010.

Fiesta’s achievement is even more impressive considering Golf sales also increased during last month and the year’s first quarter.  Fiesta sales simply outpaced Golf, with its move to pole position particularly due to its strong March sales in the UK (+14.7%) and Italy (+87%), where 57% of all Fiestas sold (11,251) were LPG-powered.

By contrast, Golf’s traditionally strong home market, Germany, continued to struggle, losing 106,590 sales overall, vs. March 2009 (- 26.6%).

“What may appear to be a sudden change in fortunes is actually a continuing trend,” said David Di Girolamo, Head of JATO Consult. 

“Fiesta has been closing the gap to Golf through 2010 and there are a number of factors behind this.  The buoyant sales markets so far this year are those where Fiesta is popular and are also scrappage-influenced markets, driving purchase of small cars.  In the UK, March marked a registration change and the final month of Britain’s scrappage scheme, while in Italy, March was the last month of 2010 in which scrappage sales could be registered.

“The last time Fiesta was ahead of Golf in European sales was March 2009, so it remains to be seen whether it can hold top position this time round.”