LONDON - Europe's top-selling car group in the first half of 2000 was not Volkswagen AG. Not if you take into account all the industry's new strategic alliances.
When the various equity partnerships are considered, the real market leader was the consortium of General Motors, Fiat, Subaru and Suzuki.
Volkswagen group drops to No. 2 in the first six months on that basis. Third is the duo of Renault and Nissan.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, the fastest-rising group in the first half in terms of pure sales growth, falls to fourth. PSA is only just ahead of the expanding Ford group that has added Land Rover and Daewoo.
In most cases these are only loose alliances with equity stakes below 50 percent - not merged companies. Technically, their combined market totals don't count. In the case of Daewoo and Ford, it's not even a done deal yet.
So Volkswagen group remained the actual No. 1 in the first half of 2000, though its sales and market share declined sharply, according to ACEA, the European carmakers' association.
But combining the sales totals of alliance partners gives a much different picture in Europe. And it's a meaningful comparison.
Renault and Nissan didn't merge, but they have a joint market share objective in Europe - 17 percent by 2005, up from 13.3 percent in the first half of 2000.
Fiat and GM didn't merge, either. But they will co-develop niche vehicles to be sold under both companies' brand names and will target different niches so as not to compete head-on.
In March, GM bought 20 percent of Fiat, while Fiat acquired 5.1 percent of GM. In the past year, GM bought 20 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru cars, and increased its stake in Suzuki to 10 per cent.
'We like that we are considered No. 1 and if someone wants to portray it like that we are not going to object,' said Stefan Weinmann, a GM Europe spokesman in Zurich. 'But because of EU competition rules and aspects of the agreement with Fiat, we will not state it that way. We do not even want to create the appearance that we are working together in the marketplace.'
Unlike Renault and Nissan, Weinmann said GM and Fiat would not link the back offices of their retail operations. Neither do the two companies have a combined market share objective.
According to ACEA's official numbers, Volkswagen group led the first half of the year with an 18.2 percent market share - down from 19 percent in the first half of 1999.
PSA's share rose from 12.8 percent from 11.5 percent last year. The French group has opened a big gap between itself and third-place GM group - without Fiat, Suzuki and Subaru. PSA and GM had the same market share in the first half of 1999. GM fell from 11.5 percent in 1999 to 11.1 percent in 2000.
Ford's group share dropped the most - from 11.5 percent in the first half of 1999 to 10.3 percent this year.
Most of the loss was suffered by the Ford brand.
The full ACEA sales tables by company and by country are on Page 22.