The Volkswagen Golf is clinging to the top of the European sales chart. January-June 1999 figures show the Golf, with 393,732 sales, just 10,290 units ahead of the GM Astra. Sales of the Golf were up 25.3 percent, while the Astra, introduced early last year, soared by 60.9 percent in the lower-medium segment.
The Land Rover Freelander and Mercedes-Benz S-class, meanwhile, were the stars of the six-month sales race in their specialized sectors.
In the sport-utility segment, the Freelander surged in front of its four-wheel-drive rivals to register 30,177 sales - more than 116 percent up on the January-June 1998 period.
The S-class, with sales of 18,372 (+252.6 percent), established a commanding 7,824-unit lead over the BMW 7 series in the upper-luxury segment.
BMW's core model, the 3 series, showed a similar dominance in the lower-luxury segment. Its sales grew by more than 45 percent, to 151,173 units. The Audi A4 was second in the class with 98,710 sales, down 14.4 percent.
The outgoing Fiat Punto was the most popular model in the supermini segment, in spite of a strong performance from the Renault Clio.
The VW Passat continued to outperform all its competitors in the upper-medium class. It increased sales by 2 percent to 185,090, while its nearest rivals - the GM Vectra and the Ford Mondeo - both declined.
In the coupes/roadsters/specialty class, total sales increased 20 percent to 229,005 units thanks in no small part to VW's New Beetle, Audi's TT and Ford's Cougar. At the top, sales of the Mercedes-Benz CLK were up 58.2 percent to 30,422 units.
Minivan sales remain buoyant. They were up 12.4 percent 212,666 units over six months. Renault, with the Espace/Grand Espace, remains the dominant manufacturer - as it is in the burgeoning compact minivan sector (see story, Page 1). There were slight falls for the Ford Galaxy, Chrysler Voyager/Grand Voyager and Peugeot 806.
Minis grew by 2.9 percent to 627,523 units, with Korean entrants the Daewoo Matiz and Hyundai Atos/Atoz continuing to make inroads.
The full-size segment stayed in the doldrums. It was down almost 30 percent to 62,122 units. The Hyundai Sonata provided the only bright spot in an otherwise declining sector. Its sales climbed 55.7 percent to 3,732.