TURIN - The Italian passenger car market grew 16 percent in the first quarter to 716,500 units, compared with a year earlier. But the 16-month boom that started in December 1996 probably ended with March.
Sales were up just 2.7 percent in March compared with 1997, and sales are expected to fall in the next three quarters by around 16 percent as the effects of a government scrapping incentive begin tailing off.
Most industry experts predict 1998 sales of about 2.2 million, which is 200,000 units fewer than the 1997 record.
Since the first quarter was 100,000 units ahead of the same period in 1997, the next nine months are predicted to fall by 300,000 units.
The No. 1 seller in the quarter was the Fiat Punto, with 96,195 units sold, ahead of the Fiat Panda (38,094) and Opel Corsa (37,939).
Italian carmakers lost 1.5 percent of market share in the quarter, taking them to 41.9 percent. Fiat brand lost 4.0 points of share, but Alfa Romeo and Lancia regained a combined 2.5 points of market share.