By Jesse Snyder Automotive News Europe
Munich, Germany-New-vehicle sales plunged in France and Germany in January, offsetting gains in Spain, Italy, the UK and most other European markets.
Sales fell 1.4 percent to 1.23 million units from January 2003 levels, according to ACEA, Europe's automaker association, which tallies sales in 26 countries.
Germany is usually Europe's largest market. But sales there fell 12.4 percent last month to 208 215, and it ranked No. 2, behind Italy. Sales in France fell 11.9 percent to 154 223 vehicles.
Three of Europe's five biggest markets saw sales increases last month. Italy gained 5.6 percent to 222 400. The UK rose 5.8 percent to 197 591. Spain was up 9.2 percent to 98 941.
Fourteen other European countries also increased sales, but those gains were not enough to overcome the combined loss of 50 447 sales in Germany and France.
-Despite the downturn, all Asian automakers prospered last month. Japanese brand sales soared 20.1 percent to 164 881 units. The Korean brands - Hyundai, Kia and GM Daewoo - jumped 20.9 percent to 43 241. The only two Asian brands without double-digit gains were Mitsubishi and Honda.
-Most traditional European companies suffered, including Volkswagen group, off 10.2 percent; and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, down 8.6 percent.
-Ford was western Europe's most popular brand in January, with 110 441 sales, down 1.6 percent. That was slightly ahead of Renault, down 2.8 percent and the Volkswagen brand, down 10.5 percent. For all of 2003, Ford was No. 4.
-Sales in eight of the 10 countries that will join the European Union in May climbed a combined 3.5 percent to 61 627 units.