PARIS - Renault expects its hot-selling Megane to hang on as Europe's sales leader for 1998.
The Megane has passed the Fiat Punto and Volkswagen Golf as Europe's best seller.
Renault sold 269,000 Meganes from January through May. The Punto, last year's No. 1, was at 266,000 units. The Golf, Europe's traditional leader, stood at 244,000, according to JATO Dynamics, an industry research firm.
Megane sales slipped in May, behind the Golf, Punto and GM Corsa. 'May was a litttle disappointing because we lacked cars,' said Thierry Dombreval, Renault vice president for marketing. Daily production at plants in Douai and Dieppe, France, and Palencia, Spain, is currently 3,025 units.
The Scenic minivan has accounted for 32.7 percent of Megane's sales this year, and in some markets it is 47 percent.
'We do not expect any slowdown in the second half of 1998,' said Dombreval. 'If we do not keep our first rank for the full year, it will be because of a production shortage.'
The race will be close. Dombreval expects sales of 600,000 Meganes in Europe. VW expects to sell 600,000-650,000 new Golfs. The Golf has had a slow production start after its autumn launch, but daily production at two plants is due to go from 3,000 to 3,500 in autumn.
Analysts expect Punto sales to fall off as Italian scrapping incentives fade.
Renault does not fear Volkswagen. Said Dombreval: 'The world does not turn around the Golf.'