Mitsubishi sales are up in most European markets, except Germany. European results boost the troubled Japanese carmaker, suffering from collapsing demand in its home market and in the US following recall scandals in Japan.

According to Automotive News Europe, Mitsubishi Motors Europe said its European sales including Russia rose 9% to 17,518 cars and light commercial vehicles in the first five months of 2004, up from 16,086 a year earlier. June sales are not yet available.

Counting only western Europe, independent research company JATO Dynamics estimated Mitsubishi’s five-month sales at 56,120 units, off 0.9% from 56,645 for January to May last year. JATO estimated May sales in western Europe at 10,179, down 7.2%.

Whichever set of results is used, Mitsubishi’s performance in Europe is much better than in its other two major markets. Mitsubishi’s Japanese sales slumped in June by 64% and plunged 46% in the US following DaimlerChrysler’s April 22 decision not to invest in a €5.8 billion rescue package of its partner.

DC owns 37% of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

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Mitsubishi’s biggest May slide was in Germany, traditionally its biggest market.

German dealers say customers in DaimlerChrysler’s home market have lost confidence in Mitsubishi’s future, driving May sales down by 15.5% to 2,574 units.

The higher European sales this year continue a positive trend for Mitsubishi. Last year, Mitsubishi’s volumes in Europe increased for the first time since 1999 to 207,939 units. The automaker’s European operations also returned to profitability one year ahead of schedule, with earnings of €180 million.

Gains of 16% in the UK and the Netherlands for the first five months have driven Mitsubishi’s growth in Europe. The UK has overtaken Germany as Mitsubishi’s biggest market: 15,114 units in the UK versus 13,271 in Germany for January to May.

A sales surge of 62% in Russia, now Mitsubishi’s No. 3 European market with 2,007 units for five months, also helped overall European figures. Russia volume is now double that of No. 6 market France.

Mitsubishi dealers across Europe say that new engine options for the Colt compact will dramatically boost sales in the second half. The 1.3-litre petrol-engined Colt went on sale in May, but 1.1-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel versions will not be available until September.

Insiders say that continued strong European sales would help loss-making Mitsubishi Motors Corp. recover, so European sales will be the No. 1 priority for new president and CEO Tim Tozer. He starts in September to replace Stefan Jacoby, who quit in February to join Volkswagen.