Sales rose in 10 out of 19 markets in Western Europe during 2005, including three of the five largest new car markets - France, Germany and Spain. The three markets showing the greatest growth compared with 2004 were Iceland (up 41%), Denmark (up 20%) and Ireland (up 11%), according to data compiled by JATO Dynamics.
The largest market falls compared with 2004 were in Switzerland (down 13%), Greece (down 7%) and the UK (down 5%). However, December's sales in both Switzerland and the UK were significantly higher than in December 2004, with Switzerland up 18%. UK sales increased by 9% due to a surge in diesel registrations ahead of a change in company car taxation.
In the main volume segments, which account for 70% of the market, 2005 saw significant falls in the small car (down 4%) and upper medium (down 2%) segments.
These falls were partly offset by a rise of 3% in sales of lower medium models but total sales in the three segments fell by 1% (98,066 units) compared with 2004. The growing importance of the SUV segment was demonstrated by the fact that the 11% increase in SUV sales during 2005 - a total of 98,555 units - almost exactly counterbalanced the decline in the three largest segments.
Volkswagen was the leading car brand in 2005, with sales up 3.5% to 1,512,093 units, ahead of Renault (1,419,889 units) and Opel/Vauxhall (1,323,561 units). BMW was the fastest-growing of the top 10 brands, with sales up 12% compared with 2004.
The fastest growth among all the volume brands in 2005 was achieved by Kia, which posted a 44% rise in sales. VW's whole-year lead was helped by a 13% sales increase in December compared with December 2004. Mercedes (up 11%), BMW and Fiat also saw sales increases in December.