MADRID - Car sales are booming in Spain, thanks to growing consumer confidence fueled by a healthy economy. The situation looks likely to continue. Provisional figures for April show the market is continuing to race ahead.
March 1999 was Spain's best-ever month for passenger-car sales. Registrations reached 148,100 - 32.1 percent more than the same period last year. Many Spaniards bought new cars for Holy Week, when road travel is heavy.
Good prospects in the Spanish tourism industry caused a huge increase in fleet sales, mostly to car rental firms.
Industry observers now believe the market will grow to over 1.3 million units this year, about 8 percent more than 1998.
Opel had a successful first quarter, with the Astra establishing a clear lead over the VW Golf. The Megane, with 24,380 sales, contributed to more than half of Renault's total. Seat's Ibiza topped the supermini segment with 20,870 units. Citroen's Xantia was the best-selling upper-medium car.
Sport-utility sales were strong, with Nissan's Terrano II, Suzuki's Vitara and Hyundai's Galloper leading the way. Sport-utility sales rose to 22,580 in the first quarter, a 49.8 percent increase over the equivalent period in 1998.