PARIS - PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Renault began pushing sales in central Europe in 1998 and both companies are now starting to see a payoff.
But growth in the region has only just begun, say executives at the two French carmakers.
Peugeot is the more dynamic of the two PSA brands in the region. Sales in central Europe in 1999 grew by 36 percent, from 35,800 to 48,700 units, said Dominique Monet, deputy manager of Peugeot's international division.
Peugeot defines central Europe as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. It also sells cars in the Russian Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, but only in small numbers.
Monet said Peugeot is building toward a 5 percent market share across central Europe.
Peugeot's share in the region grew from 2.7 percent in 1998 to 3.6 percent last year. Share for the first five months of this year was 4.9 percent.
Peugeot's share is 4 percent in Poland, 6.5 percent in Hungary and 5 percent in the Czech Republic.
Monet predicts rapid growth for Peugeot.
'We should reach between 70,000 and 75,000 units in 2000,' he said. 'We have a very good model range and competitive prices. But model availability is a problem. If we had 100,000 cars, we would sell them.'
Citroen's results in central Europe are less impressive than Peugeot's but follow the same upward trend. For the first five months of this year, Citroen sales were 14,726 units. That compares with 11,026 in the same period last year.
Renault also has ambitious sales targets in central Europe.
'We are aiming for a 8 percent market share in the area by 2002,' said Sylvie Sainlot, an executive from the Renault Europe sales division. 'We will focus on four main markets: Poland, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.' Renault says it had a 6.3 percent share across the region in 1999.
In the first five months of 2000, Renault sold 35,137 units in central Europe, up from 31,275 units in the year-ago period.
Sainlot said: 'We are now the fourth most popular brand in the area after Fiat, Skoda and Daewoo.'