While 10 brands finished as winners in Europe last year another eight declined less than the market, which let them gain or maintain market share, while the remaining 12 underperformed a market that was down for its sixth consecutive year from a 16 million peak in 2007.
Renault and Daimler were the only two large groups to increase their sales in Europe last year, each growing 4 percent. Mercedes-Benz led Daimler's rise as Smart sales slid due to the age of its single model, the ForTwo. The Mercedes brand's 2013 sales increased 5 percent to 617,244 units on strong demand for the A class. Sales of the compact, which passed the C class last year to become Mercedes' top-selling model in Europe, were up 87 percent to 130,864 units. Mercedes also got a 28,000-unit boost from the all-new CLA coupe-styled compact sedan, which is part of the company's fast-growing family of compacts that includes the A class, B class and will add the GLA SUV next month.
"Mercedes' growth has come almost exclusively from the A-class platform products. It's obviously not a very profitable car, but Stuttgart is delighted with the reception that the product has received – it's done everything hoped of it and more, proving the brand can work with younger buyers and can make conquest sales," Warburton said.
Sales at Daimler subsidiary Smart were down 7 percent last year. The brand will debut the third generation of its ForTwo minicar at the Geneva auto show next month. A four-seat car is also on the way for Smart to help boost volume.
Among Europe's other large groups, Toyota, BMW, VW and Hyundai-Kia declined at a slower rate than the market while Ford, General Motors, Fiat-Chrysler and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen lost both European sales and market share in 2013.
Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell put his company's 4 percent decline in perspective. "We significantly reduced sales to rental fleets and dealer self-registrations, betting that we could correspondingly increase retail sales with our new vehicles," Odell said in a statement. "This has really paid off: retail sales are more profitable and better for brand image and residual values."