New car sales in Europe fell last year, despite a price war and a strong showing from Japanese car makers.
Japanese car makers are increasing market share in Europe
According to the European Car Industry Association (ACEA), the number of new cars sold fell 0.7% to 15,222,939.
Sales held steady in Western Europe with a decline of just 0.2%, but an influx of used cars in Eastern Europe meant sales there slumped by 10%.
Germany, Europe's largest market, grew by 1.6% with 3.3 million registrations. British sales fell 5% to 2.4 million.
Japanese car makers continued to eat away at the market share of European rivals. Sales increased by 12% at Suzuki, by 10% at Honda, 7% at Mitsubishi and 5% at Toyota.
The result was a decline at several European carmakers, including:
- PSA Group, which owns the Peugeot and Citroen brands
- Ford, home of Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar
- General Motors, owner of Opel, Vauxhall, Chevrolet and Saab
- Fiat, whose marques include Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari
- DaimlerChrysler, owner of Smart, Chrysler and Mercedes
Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker and producer of Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley and Lamborghini brands, held on to its position at the top of the region's sales league.
The company said 2005 sales rose 3% to 2.9 million.
Top 10 European car sales - 2005
VW Group - 2,944,652
PSA Group - 2,061,264
Ford Group - 1,628,917
GM Group - 1,625,828
Renault - 1,487,464
Fiat Group - 988,837
DaimlerChrysler - 914,125
Toyota & Lexus - 818,101
BMW Group - 779,527
Nissan - 357,482
In its most recent report on the world automotive industry, consultants KPMG said that European manufacturers needed to learn the lessons of their US counterparts who lost market share to Asian competitors.
It predicted that Asian brands were poised to make a sustained assault on European markets over the next five years, starting with the more price-sensitive areas of Eastern Europe.
"If the Chinese and South Korean brands do make their expected play for Europe, the established European companies will need to be ready," said Mike Steventon, KPMG's head of automotive in the UK.
"They must invest in new technologies, be at the forefront of innovation, be flexible and efficient. Simply having a strong brand is not enough to operate successfully in a global industry."