In sharp contrast to a contracting global automobile market, all three Baltic states ended the calendar posting double-digit sales increases, with consumers showing a preference for the latest models of Renault and Peugeot
While worldwide car sales were down 0.6 percent in 2002, car dealers saw their annual sales increase by 14 percent in Estonia, 18 percent in Lithuania and almost 10 percent in Latvia, according to statistics released by the Lithuanian market research company Auto Tyrimai, the Estonian motor vehicle registration center ARK and the Latvian Authorized Car Dealers Association.
Peugeot had an exceptional year in the Baltic states thanks to its 206 and 307 models that hit hard the market. The French carmaker is market leader in Estonia and holds second places both in Lithuania and Latvia.
Peugeot sold around 2,800 cars in the Baltics in 2002, among which 703 were sold in Latvia.
The overall leader in Latvia, however, was Toyota, which posted 724 sales thanks to its new Corolla. The Japanese carmaker hopes its 2003 models will propel it into first place. Toyota's Avensis and Lexus LX300 are expected to attract customers, as well as the arrival of the new Landcruiser.
Renault is market leader in Lithuania, which in 2002 passed the barrier of 10,000 new cars sold for the first time.
The French carmaker, which has operations based in neighboring Poland, sold 1,041 cars in Lithuania.
Some of the internationally renowned automakers had a difficult year.
By the end of 2002 Mercedes had 103 fewer cars registered in Latvia, a decline of 26 percent over the previous year, while Volvo also saw its Latvian sales sink.
To be sure, while Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all rapidly expanding markets, they each have different characteristics in terms of levels of maturity and market penetration.
Estonia beat both its Baltic neighbors by selling nearly 15,000 cars, which is particularly impressive considering the market already had over 400,000 automobiles already registered.
Another useful market indicator compares sales of new and secondhand cars on a given market. In Estonia a parity is observed between new and used car sales, whereas the rate in Latvia is 20 new cars per every 100 car sales.
According to the Latvian Authorized Car Dealers Association, local tax policies and leasing services play an important role in defining the ratio of new and used car sales.