PRAGUE (Reuters) -- Czech new-car registrations rose 20 percent in 2015 to a record 230,857 on the back of a fast-growing economy, the country's Car Importer's Association said, predicting further growth in 2016.
Czech car-sales growth outpaced the 9 percent expansion recorded in western Europe, although sales in Europe's biggest markets -- Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Italy – all recorded significant increases in 2015.
"If we keep sales growth at around 10 percent, it will be a success," the importer association's director, Pavel Tunkl, told Reuters.
The Czech economy accelerated sharply in 2015, boosted by an inflow of European Union development funds that helped growth reach more than 4 percent, among the fastest rates in the 28-nation bloc.
Observers forecast growth will slow to around 3 percent in 2016 as the impact of the EU funds weakens, which will likely translate into slower car sales growth as well.
New-car sales have been a major factor in boosting domestic retail sales at a time when the Czech central bank is trying to revive inflation. Its efforts have been hampered by falling global oil prices and deflationary pressures in the eurozone.
Czech car production also saw a record year and is expected to have risen to 1.3 million cars, Antonin Sipek, head of the Automotive Industry Association, told reporters.
The Czech Republic is home to three car plants run by Volkswagen Group's Skoda brand, Hyundai Motor and TPCA, a joint venture of Toyota Motor Corp. and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.
Skoda, the biggest Czech company in terms of sales and the top exporter, maintained its dominant domestic market position with a 32 percent share of sales last year. It was followed by the Volkswagen brand with a 10 percent share and Hyundai with 8.5 percent.