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UK: Western Europe passenger sales up 1.64% in 2004

By just-auto.com editorial team | 21 January 2005

Western European passenger car sales rose 1.64% in 2004 to 14,775,541 units, according to independent analyst JATO Dynamics.

December volume of 1,015,294 units was up 1.58% on December 2003.

JATO analysts say the key trend during 2004 was the emergence of the mini/midi-MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle or minivan) segment as a serious mainstream contender in the market. Although the lower-medium segment showed some brand-led recovery in the latter months of the year, there was no doubt that, with an increase in registrations for the year of 22.84%, mini/midi-MPVs became a popular alternative in 2004.

A distinct shift also emerged in 2004 in the higher priced segments with customers choosing SUVs and premium lower-medium cars over the conventional upper-medium and executive categories.

Renault remained the top brand in Western Europe, ahead of VW, Opel/Vauxhall, Ford and Peugeot. BMW performed very strongly despite many of its products being in declining segments; registrations for the brand were up 18.75% in December and 12.4% for the full year. In December the 3- (on run-out), 5- and 7-series models all led their segments, the 1-series came within a few units of leading its category and the X3 was second in the SUV table.

Kia also did exceptionally well, up 156.4% for the month and 44.18% for the year thanks to outstanding sales of the Picanto.

Brands outside the top ten that did well over the full year include Smart (up 19.07%), Hyundai (up 18.75%) and Mazda (up 18.37%).

The VW Golf led the market for the full year, finishing with strong sales (550,117 units up 10.7% on 2003) that countered initial early concerns about a lack of demand for the new model. The other top five sellers over the 12 months were the Peugeot 206, Peugeot 307, Renault Mégane and Ford Focus.

Sales in the mini-segment were up 1.02% for the year and 3.97% higher in December than the same month a year earlier. The Fiat Panda (up 68.9% for the full year) led the segment in the full-year totals from the Twingo and smart fortwo.  Superminis fell 1.32% for the whole year and 1.66% for the month.  Overall in 2004, the Peugeot 206 led from the Renault Clio, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Fiat Punto and VW Polo.

The lower-medium category has been gaining strength in recent months due to new product launches of the Golf, Focus and Astra.  Total registrations for the month were 11.68% higher than December 2003 but sales for the full year were up by only 1.62%.  Year-to-date the VW Golf retained its lead of the segment from the Peugeot 307 and Renault Mégane.

In comparison, the premium lower-medium segment showed dramatic growth, increasing by 50.06% for the month and 9.5% for the full year. The Audi A3 (up 18.2% YTD) carried its lead of the sector over the year with the Alfa Romeo 147 and BMW 1-series following.

The upper-medium category declined in December following two months of growth, down 5.4% compared to December 2003. The segment total for the year was 5.1% lower in 2004 than the previous year. The VW Passat continued to be segment leader YTD ahead of the Ford Mondeo, Opel/Vauxhall Vectra, Toyota Avensis (up 25.9% YTD) and Renault Laguna.

The premium upper-medium segment also fell, by 14.15% for the month and 9.29% for the full year. The BMW 3-Series led from the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Executive car volumes remained fairly static overall with sales down 0.25% for the 12 months and down 0.95% for December.  Top three places for the full year went to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-series and Audi A6. The high-luxury segment suffered in 2004 with sales declining 11.35% over the full year and 11.29% for the month.

The success story of the mini/midi-MPVs which seemed unstoppable in 2004 finally slowed in the closing months of the year, declining 2.21% in December compared to the same month in 2003. However, sales were up by an impressive 22.84% for the full year. The Renault Scénic/Grand Scénic led from the Opel/Vauxhall Zafira and Citroën Xsara Picasso YTD.

The full-size MPV segment continued its slide with registrations down 26.4% in December and down 10.17 for the year compared to 2003.

SUVs were up 13.31% for the full year with growth of 7.15% in the month of December. Overall in 2004, the Toyota RAV4 led the segment from the Nissan X-Trail and Suzuki Vitara/Grand Vitara/XL7.

The sports segment continued to grow, with sales up 23.47% for the full year and up 18.28% in December. The sector was led in 2004 by the Mercedes-Benz CLK and SLK.