Global auto sales for the first six months of 2012 reached 41.5 million units, outpacing the same period year-ago by 5.9%.

However, the market should post an even bigger gain for the full year, reflecting the impact the Japan earthquake/tsunami and Thai flooding had on sales in the final three quarters of 2011.

The current-year year-to-date tally was boosted by June deliveries of 7.3 million vehicles, a 10.8% rise over year-ago and the second consecutive month of double-digit increases.

In the Asia/Pacific region, sales climbed 17.8% to 3.03 million units, lifting 6-month volume 11.8% over year-ago to just shy of 18 million units. That gives the region a 43.3% share of worldwide sales so far in 2012.

Deliveries in China rose 9.9% in June, but just 2.7% year-to-date, giving the world’s largest market a 23.1% share of global sales in the first six months, down from 23.8% year-ago.

As expected, Japan volume jumped more than 40% in June, reflecting the recovery from the early 2011 natural disasters that devastated sales and production. Year-to-date sales in the world’s No.3 market were up 53.6%, good for a 7.1% share of the world total, compared with 4.9% in like-2011.

The North American market also saw positive comparisons to inventory-depleted year-ago results. June sales spiked 19%, led by a 21.8% increase in the U.S., where pent-up demand from the recent recession continues to drive growth.

Year-to-date North American volume of nearly 8.8 million units represented a 14.1% gain from like-2011 and gave the region a 21.1% share of worldwide sales, up from 19.6% in the prior year.

Share gains in North America and the Asia/Pacific region came largely at the expense of the European market, which accounted for 24.3% of first-half sales, compared with 27.1% year-ago.

Europe’s largest market, Germany, saw sales rise just 0.5% in the first half, but volume for the entire region dropped 4.8%. Russia was the bright spot, with Europe’s No.2 market growing 14.7% over first-half year-ago. The U.K. saw a 1.7% increase for the period.

But those gains were offset by a 13.2% decline in France, a 21.4% dip in Italy and year-over-year shortfalls in a number of smaller European markets.

South America sales also lagged year-ago, with 6-month deliveries down 1.2%. However, sales in the largest market, Brazil, climbed 16.2% in June, lifting the region’s sales 10% over like-2011.

To date, South America’s share of world vehicle sales was 6.5%, trailing year-ago’s 6.9% take.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com