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Old 05-23-2003, 10:02   #1 (permalink)
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Mazda6 drives Japanese share gain

By Geoff Barton
Automotive News Europe / May 19, 2003

The hottest-selling car in Europe? It might just be the Mazda6, which is driving a major turnaround for Ford's Japanese brand.

Mazda sold 34,869 units of the upper-medium model in the first four months of 2003. The Mazda6 went on sale almost a year ago.

Its success helped boost Mazda sales by more than 40 percent in the January to April period, to 70,184 units. Mazda sales were up nearly 57 percent in April alone, to 18,276 units.

Mazda's growth has been the single biggest reason Japanese carmakers captured 12.2 percent of the western European market in the first four months of the year, up from 11.1 percent in the same period last year. Still, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Lexus, and Suzuki all grew sales last month.

The Mazda6 has also done well in Germany. The model accounts for more than half of Mazda sales there. It helped Mazda grab nearly 3 percent of the German market in the first four months of 2003, up from 1.85 percent in the same period last year.

The Mazda6 was narrowly beaten by the second Renault Megane in the European Car of the Year voting last year.

Europe's new-car sales were 1,219,605 units in April, down 6.5 percent. ACEA, the European automakers' association, blamed the war in Iraq and depressed economies.

Volkswagen-brand sales fell by 15.4 percent in April, to 120,713 units. "The month-to-month trend is deteriorating," said Jürgen Pieper, auto analyst at Metzler Bank in Frankfurt. "I would expect that pattern to continue at least until they bring out the new Golf in the autumn."

Kia's sales surged by nearly 70 percent in April, to 10,780 units, outselling brands such as Mitsubishi, Saab and Lancia. At 0.9 percent, the Korean brand had the same market share as Britain's MG Rover.

-- Reuters News Service contributed
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