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European car market makes November surge

Western Europe’s passenger car market grew in November by 6.92% over the same month last year, recording 1,145,479 units to leave it 1.44% up year-to-date, according to figures released today by analyst JATO Dynamics.

Cautious optimism is further justified by continued growth in the key lower and upper-medium segments.

Growth in the small MPV segment was again at lower levels than earlier in the year, but SUVs returned to growth after October’s dip in sales.

Renault was once more the best-selling brand, up 6.6% for the month, while Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot and BMW all recorded double-digit growth. However, of the ‘big five’ only VW and Ford are up year-to-date. Honours for biggest growth among the high-volume carmakers YTD goes to Volvo (14.9%), BMW (11.9%) and Honda (11.3%).

The VW Golf was the highest-selling model in November, up more than 30% on November 2003 with 44,987 units, and is also number one YTD; Peugeot’s 206 is second to the Golf in both cases.

However, it is the Opel/Vauxhall Astra which has made the most impressive recent growth, up 65.4% in November to underline the appeal of the new model. In YTD terms Renault is performing extremely well, with the Mégane and Scénic both significantly up, 19.6% and 24.7% respectively.

The mini segment grew by 2.6% in November and is up 0.9% YTD, dominated by the Fiat Panda, which accounted for 26.7% of all sales during the month. Superminis also increased volumes for the month, by 2.0%, but remain down YTD, by 1.2%. Renault’s new Modus supermini-MPV crossover has had a successful introduction, claiming eighth spot in November, ahead of the Toyota Yaris.

The lower-medium segment followed October’s trend-reversing growth of 4.1% with a resounding increase of 17.21% in November, leaving the category fractionally up YTD. Behind the Golf, Astra, Mégane, Peugeot 307 and Ford Focus, the Mazda 3 stands out, up 85.4% in November and with YTD volumes more than twice those recorded by the same model and its 323 predecessor in the equivalent period last year.

In the premium lower-medium category there is currently an explosion in volumes thanks largely to the new BMW 1-Series and Sportback versions of the Audi A3, which dominates. November sales were up 42.1%, and the 1-Series is third best-seller YTD despite being introduced only recently.

The upper-medium category also repeated its October turnaround to be up 7.2% in November, although YTD it is still down on 2003 by 4.9%. The VW Passat leads for both November and YTD, but the most notable performance is by the Peugeot 407, with sales almost three times those of its 406 predecessor in November 2003 to be second for the month. The premium upper-medium segment continues to slide, down 5.4% for the month and 8.67% YTD.

With its replacement imminent, the BMW 3-Series still leads, but only marginally from the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Executive cars enjoyed a good November, up 7.3%. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class maintains a narrowing advantage over the BMW 5-Series, which is gaining momentum to be up 21.0% for the month and 39.0% YTD. Jaguar’s S-Type grew by 24.0% in November following its facelift and introduction of a diesel engine. The high-luxury segment was also relatively buoyant in November, up 3.8%, but it remains 10.8% down YTD.

Audi’s A8 was up 15.6% for the month, only just missing out on displacing the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for the top spot and leaving it just 250 units short of the BMW 7-Series for second place YTD. Sizeable growth in the mini-MPV segment continues to slow but is still impressive, up 11.2% on November 2003 and 24.6% YTD. The Renault Scénic/Grand Scénic continues to lead, but the Ford C-Max was up 53% for the month while the VW Touran is up 105.6% YTD. Full-size MPVs continue to decline, with a fall of 20.6% in November for a 9.5% drop YTD. Renault’s Espace leads.

SUVs were up 11.1% in November to reverse the October fall, and remain 12.9% up for the year. BMW’s new X3 slotted into second place behind the Toyota RAV4 for the month, while the VW Touareg posted a 29.3% improvement for November to be up 107.0% YTD.

The sports segment continues to grow, but is highly sensitive to new-model introductions. The Mercedes-Benz CLK leads YTD from the SLK (up 257.0% for the month), while second place in November was taken by the new Opel Tigra.

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