TURIN - Scrapping incentives gave Italy record passenger car sales of 2,411,900.
Registrations were 39.2 percent higher than in 1996, and 22,500 units more than in the previous best year, 1992. The sales surge follows four years with annual sales of around 1.7 million units.
Incentives applied to about 45 percent of new cars, or 1,085,355 sales, according to industry estimates.
The Fiat Punto was by far the best-selling car. It accounted for 15.4 percent of the market, with 372,200 registrations.
The next four top sellers were also Italian: Bravo/Brava (116,300); Panda (111,800); Lancia Y (111,700); and Cinquecento (101,300). The best-selling import was the Opel Corsa (96,300). The Corsa beat the traditional import leader, the Ford Fiesta, which took seventh place with 85,300 registrations.
Most manufacturers' market shares were stable, but Volkswagen was a big loser. Volkswagen brand fell from 7.3 percent to 5.3 percent, due to long waiting lists for the Polo and Passat and the four-month delay in introducing the new Golf.
Fiat Auto's market share slipped from 43.6 percent in 1996 to 42.8 percent. Fiat brand was stable, but Alfa Romeo and Lancia lost a combined 0.8 percent.
Ford was the top importer and No. 2 brand overall with 9.3 percent of the market. Hyundai's sales rose 245.8 percent to 26,811. Hyundai passed Honda and Toyota to become the No. 16 brand.