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AUTOMOTIVE - NEW CAR SALES UP OVER 10 PERCENT FROM LAST YEAR

Škoda losing ground as luxury models gain

ANNUAL sales of new cars in Slovakia continue to rise but are still well below average per capita rates in wealthier countries due to low domestic purchasing power.
According to data from the Slovak Automotive Industry Association, 44,768 cars and small utility vehicles were sold in Slovakia during the first seven months of this year, a 10.5 percent increase from the 40,517 cars sold from January to July 2005.

ANNUAL sales of new cars in Slovakia continue to rise but are still well below average per capita rates in wealthier countries due to low domestic purchasing power.

According to data from the Slovak Automotive Industry Association, 44,768 cars and small utility vehicles were sold in Slovakia during the first seven months of this year, a 10.5 percent increase from the 40,517 cars sold from January to July 2005.

This year's figures put full-year sales on track for about 76,000 vehicles, compared to 71,296 sold in 2005 and 65,442 in 2002.

Andrej Glatz, director of Daimler Chrysler Automotive Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator that the number of cars sold continued to be limited by the relatively low Slovak standard of living.

"There are 1.3 million cars registered in Slovakia, but only 60,000 new vehicles are sold annually. This "produces" an average age of 20 years for our vehicles. A healthier number would be 100,000-120,000 new cars sold annually," Glatz said.

As usual, the Škoda make led the rankings of new car sales in Slovakia, but by a far slimmer margin than in the past.

Škoda enjoyed a 25.99 percent market share during the first seven months of 2006, followed by Volkswagen with 9.06 percent and Peugeot with 7.22 percent (see chart).

According to Tomáš Andrejčák, an automotive sector specialist with the Pravda daily, the majority of brands profited from the increased demand for cars in Slovakia, with the exception of Škoda.

Although Škoda sold slightly more cars during the first seven months of 2006 than in the same period last year, its market share was down almost two percentage points, and fully 16 points since 2002.

"The reason for Škoda's fall is twofold: Its gradual loss of its greatest competitiveness advantage - affordability - and the fact that its Fabia model is too old and is due to get an offspring soon," Andrejčák said.

The French Renault brand experienced the next-largest year-on-year drop in market share, while Chevrolet, which last year almost cracked the top 10, found itself in 20th place in 2006.

On the other hand, Volkswagen leapfrogged Peugeot into second place, as due to the success of its Passat model it sold one-third more cars than during the same period last year.

Ford, in sixth spot in the 2006 rankings, also reported record sales, while Suzuki's commendable eighth place could have been even higher if it had not run short of its most sold model, the SX4.

Apart from traditional top 10 names such as Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Fiat, the Korean Hyundai also returned to the best-seller list.

On the other hand, Seat failed to make the top 10 for the second year in a row, as according to Andrejčák the market did not respond as expected to its atypical new model.

But it was the luxury brands that experienced the largest boom in terms of market share. German producers Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW all saw record sales for the first seven months of 2006, with Mercedes leading in market share at 2.8 percent.

Mercedes outranked more "down-market" names such as Mazda, Dacia, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda, and Kia.

While overall car sales have increased by 18 percent since 2000, the luxury segment has seen a threefold rise. Together with Volvo, Jaguar, Saab and Porsche, the luxury segment currently accounts for seven percent of sales. Not bad for the Slovak market, with the average price of such cars ranging from Sk2-3 million.

Economy and economy/mid-range cars still dominate the market with a share of 79 percent. In terms of models, the Škoda Fabia is still the best selling in the country followed by the Škoda Octavia and the Peugeot 206 - the same order as last year. However, after several years in the top 10, Opel's Corsa and Astra, and the Seat Ibiza have dropped out.

Major changes this year include Suzuki, which is in 4th place with its Swift, followed by Volkswagen with its Passat, Polo and Golf (5th, 6th, and 10th places respectively).

After introducing some sale prices, the Logan from Romania's Dacia (in cooperation with Renault) took 9th place, pushing the Chevrolet Kalos out of the 10 most successful models.

The list of the best-selling cars could still change towards the end of the year, however, with the new Peugeot 207, Opel Corsa, Kia Cee'd and Škoda Roomster scheduled to hit the market.


Car sales in Slovakia

Brand / Market Share (%)

Rank Jan-Jul 2006 2005 2002
1. Škoda 25.99 Škoda 27.74 Škoda 41.13
2. Volkswagen 9.06 Peugeot 7.25 Volkswagen 9.27
3. Peugeot 7.22 Volkswagen 7.16 Renault 9.22
4. Citroen 6.31 Renault 6.37 Peugeot 6.98
5. Renault 5.75 Citroen 6.35 Citroen 5.11
6. Ford 4.67 Opel 4.77 Fiat 4.15
7. Opel 4.63 Suzuki 4.67 Opel 3.93
8. Suzuki 4.26 Ford 4.1 Seat 3.76
9. Fiat 3.37 Fiat 4.03 Toyota 2.44
10. Hyundai 3.2 Toyota 3.24 Daewoo 2.3
Source: Slovak Automotive Industry Association

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