FRANKFURT - German sales bounced back in the third quarter after a poor first half.
Nine-month sales were 2,704,029 units, a drop of 0.5 percent compared with the same period in 1996. Industry analysts predict a 1997 total of around 3.55 million, up 1.5 percent.
The best-selling model was the Volkswagen Golf, although sales fell 13.0 percent to 235,527 units because of the changeover to the fourth-generation model.
The Opel Astra was second with 141,463. No. 3 was the VW Passat, with 97,263 units sold.
Volkswagen remains Germany's top-selling carmaker, though sales declined 5.6 percent because of the Golf changeover. VW's share fell from 19.4 percent last year to 18.4 percent in the first nine months of 1997.
Renault strengthened its position as the leading importer. It sold 63,225 Meganes - 38 percent of total sales. Toyota displaced Fiat as the second biggest importer as Fiat group sales fell 15.0 percent.
'Orders actually picked up in February,' said Richard Hover from the importers' trade association VDIK. 'This indicates that local manufacturers and importers are having trouble satisfying orders. It is still not yet clear what effect this will have in the long run, but it is sure to leave a mark.'
Two factors seem to have improved consumers' confidence: lower interest rates and the increased likelihood of the single European currency occurring on schedule.