PRAGUE (Reuters) - Unit sales at Skoda Auto fell by 4.6 percent in April due to a switch to a new Octavia model and continued weak demand in some European markets, the car maker said on Thursday.
Skoda, the Czech Republic's largest exporter and a unit of Germany's Volkswagen , is seen as a gauge of the export-reliant economy's performance.
The car producer sold 77,600 units in the month of April. In the January-April period it sold 298,000 cars, down by 8 percent year on year, it said.
Board chairman Winfried Vahland said the company had expected sales in the first half of 2013 would be below the 2012 levels due to the introduction of the new Octavia and Octavia Combi models.
"Moreover, some markets continue to be under a strong pressure which we cannot entirely avoid," he said.
Skoda's Yeti model came top in a British national satisfaction survey and sales in Britain rose by 16.4 percent in April. But in Western Europe as a whole it sold 29,900 units, 1.4 percent down from last year.
The car producer's expectations regarding its performance over the whole year of 2013 are "basically positive" with regards to launching eight new or re-adjusted models, the company added.
The central European economy shrank by a much larger-than-expected 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013, preliminary data showed on Wednesday, as exports have ceased to prop up growth.
(Reporting by Jana Mlcochova; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)