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European registrations slide

Western European passenger car sales in 2005 look unlikely to reach last year's level after November's 3.3% dip in total registrations.

November saw registrations fall significantly in all major markets and segments, leaving total volume for the year-to-date (YTD) at 13,751,442 units; 0.1% behind the first 11 months of 2004, according to JATO Dynamics.

Only Hungary, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden recorded increases in registrations in November, with Hungary posting the largest rise of 10.3%. The region's five largest markets were down in November, although France, Germany and Spain remained ahead of 2004 on year-to-date sales.

Registrations in the small, lower medium and upper medium segments fell by 53,403 units (6.5%) compared to November 2004. On year-to-date sales, the three segments, which account for 70% of sales, were 1% behind 2004. Demand for SUVs and mini-MPVs continued to rise, however, while luxury car sales surged for the second month running (up by 41%).

December's new car market is traditionally one of the smallest of the year, so total new car sales for 2005 can be expected to fall slightly behind the 2004 total of 14,775,541 units.

Volkswagen again headed the brand table in November, with year-to-date sales up 2.2% on 2004, to 1,378,635 units. The strongest growth was again achieved by BMW (up 12.7%), with Toyota also posting a 3.7% increase.

The top three brands in November and for the year to far were VW, Renault and Opel/Vauxhall. Outside the top 10, Audi (up 10.3%) and Skoda (up 14.9%) continued their strong sales growth, with Kia (up 53.7%) growing fastest of all among the volume brands.

Opel/Vauxhall's Astra retook first place in the highest-selling model ranking, with sales of 34,006 units in November, ahead of VW Golf (33,420 units) and Ford Focus (up 1.8% to 32,523 units).

Fourth-placed Renault Clio increased sales by 13.5% while sales of the VW Passat were up 28.7% compared with the previous November. For the year-to-date, the Golf retained its lead with sales 435,827 units in the region, ahead of the Astra on 423,264 units and the Focus on 384,234 units.

New models led growth in the city car and luxury segments in November, while the high volume segments suffered falls. City cars were up 10.5% in November, and luxury sales surged 41%, but the small, lower medium and upper medium segments combined fell by 6.5%. After nine months of dramatic growth in the premium lower medium segment, where year-to-date sales have risen by 33%, sales fell 5.3% in November (in contrast to a 15.6% rise in October).

Small segment sales slipped again in November, falling 5.2% compared with the same month in 2004. #AM_ART_SPLIT#

The Peugeot 206 led the segment for the year-to-date while the Renault Clio took a clear lead in November, with a 13.5% sales increase. The 206 took second place in November, with Volkswagen’s Polo moving into third place ahead of the Ford Fiesta. Lower medium sales suffered a 12.2% slide compared with November 2004.

However, sales for that month were unusually high, which puts this November's fall into context. For the year-to-date, sales of volume lower medium models remained 1% higher than in 2004. The Opel/Vauxhall Astra led the volume model sales in November, ahead of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus (up 1.8%).

Sales of volume models in the upper medium segment increased very slightly in November, with registrations up by 0.8% to keep the year-to-date figure 2.6% higher than in 2004. Volkwagen's Passat (up 28.7%) led the segment in November from the Peugeot 407 and Skoda Octavia (up 21.5%).

At the premium end of the segment, overall volumes were down 11.5% year-to-date.

BMW's new 3-Series (up 25.9%) led in November from the Audi A4 (up 4.9%) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Executive segment registrations fell in November, although more slowly than before. They were down 1.4% in November and down 4.7% for the year. Audi's A6 (up 4.6% in November and 23.9% YTD) maintained its lead from BMW's 5-Series (up 10.0% in November) and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Between them, the three manufacturers hold nearly 75% of the segment, with Mercedes-Benz narrowly leading thanks to combined sales of the E-Class and CLS-Class.

With sales of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class up 94%, registrations in the luxury segment recorded a 41% rise in November, although YTD sales remained nearly 10% lower than in 2004. The S-Class led the segment from the BMW 7-Series (up 36.7% in November) and Audi A8. VW's Phaeton (up 25.4%) and Jaguar's XJ (up 49.8%) also performed well in November.

Renault's Scenic/Grand Scenic (22,439 units in November) led the mini-MPV segment from the popular new Opel/Vauxhall Zafira (up 17.9% in November), and Volkswagen Touran. The Toyota Corolla Verso (up 45.3% YTD) and facelifted Fiat Multipla (up 55.1% YTD) also enjoyed success. The segment now accounts for 9.3% of the total market, with registrations rising 4.9% in November and 5.3% for the YTD.

The new Mazda5 moved into second place in November's full size MPV market, behind the long-term leader, Renault's Espace/Grand Espace (3,101 units) and ahead of the VW Sharan. Overall, volumes in the segment were 10.1% lower for the YTD than in 2004.

With more than 50 SUV models to choose from, Europeans continued their love affair with 4x4s. This pushed sales 3.5% higher in November to grow the YTD market by almost 11% compared with 2004.

The model ranking at the top of the table remained unchanged, with Toyota's RAV4 leading from the BMW X3 (up 54.5% YTD), which moved ahead of the Hyundai Tucson (up 37.6% in November). Toyota, BMW and Hyundai were the top selling SUV brands in November, with Nissan, Land Rover and Kia close behind and all enjoying strong growth for key models.

Sales of sports models, at 19,347 units in November, were 10% lower than in the same month in 2004, although this was less of a decline than in previous months. For the year-to-date, sales in the segment were 6% down on 2004. The Opel/Vauxhall Tigra led in November, followed by the Mercedes-Benz CLK (up 3.9%) and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.

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