Times may be tough at home but GM is enjoying significant market share and volume gains in Europe according to January European car sales figures released by the European carmakers’ organisation Acea. GM is hoping that its European unit will turn a profit in 2007.

The ACEA figures confirm earlier national car market figures released by JD Power that show a year-on-year contraction in the German market due to a VAT change and gains elsewhere reflecting an additional sales day.

New car sales in Europe increased to 1.29m units in January from 1.27m units a year earlier (+1.1%) – but Western Europe recorded a gain of just 0.4%. New EU member states recorded a gain of 16.6% over last year, to stand at 60,100 units.

GM Group sales in Europe rose by 7.3% to 126,449 units, helped by the impact of the new Corsa model as well as still strong sales under its low-cost Chevrolet brand (up 8.3%). GM share was up to 10.3% against 9.7% in the same month last year.

However, Toyota continued to show impressive growth in January, it’s sales (including Lexus) up by 20.2% to 76,649 units, share up to 6.3% against 5.2% last year.

Another notable January gainer was Fiat Auto, sales up 4.8% to 108,103 units (Alfa Romeo sales 9.3% ahead of last year).

Sales at market leading Volkswagen Group declined by 3.8% to 239,089 units, as Volkswagen brand sales plummeted by 9% to 120,988 units. But there was some good news for VW with Skoda up by 14% over last year.

Renault recorded a very sizeable sales drop of 7.9% and share was down to 8% against 8.7% last year.

ACEA noted that while the overall result was affected by the expected decline in German car sales, new EU Member States kept on growing, with the Baltic countries still leading the way (Latvia +95.3%, Lithuania +62.8%, Estonia +46.1%).

Czech Republic (+17%), Hungary (+6.6%) and Poland (+21.6%) also positively contributed to the overall result.

In absolute terms, half of the growth recorded by the new EU states came from Poland, where additional 4,037 cars were registered as compared with January 2006. This upswing in purchases was fuelled by sales campaigns for 2006 cars and financial incentives (discounts, attractive credits, leasing), ACEA said.

In contrast, Slovak and Slovenian markets saw their results decline (–6.3% and –1.3%) respectively.