MAZDA'S flying start to 2003 continued into the spring with sales for April up more than 56 per cent, despite sales across the EU dipping by 6.5 per cent.

This gave Mazda a 1.5 per cent share of the Western European* market for the month with total sales of 18,276, up from 11,658 in April 2002, according to the latest provisional figures from ACEA, the European automobile constructors' association

April was the first month of full availability for the European-built Mazda2, a car that has won praise across the EU.

Sales for the first four months of the year stand at 70,184 and a market share of 1.4 per cent, an increase in sales of 40.3 per cent over the first four months of last year when sales were 50,029.

This strong showing means that Mazda continues to be by far the best-performing Japanese brand in Europe. The Japanese have seen sales increase by 5.9 per cent to 610,663 and a 12.2 per cent share of the market, year-to-date.

And it is backed by an exceptionally strong showing in the UK where year-to-date sales for the first four months are up 43.52 per cent at 12,551 against 8,745 in the same period in 2002, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

This puts Mazda well on track to reach its 2003 sales target of 39,600. In Europe, Mazda's target is 210,000 this year, rising to 300,000 in the medium term.

Total Western European sales in April were 1,219,605. This gives a total for the first four months of the year of 5.02 million, down from 5.19 million last year, a decline of 3.4 per cent.

Mazda's latest success builds on the achievements of 2002 when the company posted a 13.3 per cent increase, registering sales of 157,934, up from 139,393 in 2001.

Mazda has just launched the Mazda2, built in Valencia, Spain and is now gearing up for the summer launch of the RX-8, with UK prices starting from £19,995. Then the all-new C-segment car – previewed as the MX Sportif at the Geneva motor show -- is due at the end of 2003.

*ACEA classifies Western Europe as the 15 countries of the EU and the members of EFTA (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein)

Published : 16/05/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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