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Western European car market static in 2005

The western European new car market fell in December by 2.5% to 1.05 million units. However, the total market for 2005 was only 0.2% (29,780 units) lower than 2004’s annual total of 14,854,554 units.

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.

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