Birmingham van maker LDV has brushed off a terrible September performance which saw sales of new vehicles plunge by almost a third.

The Washwood Heath firm said it was in the process of establishing a European dealer network while it was targeting its biggest ever production year for a decade in 2007.

The developments came as figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed LDV sold 1,019 vans last month, down 31.75 per cent from the 1,493 in September 2005.

The performance left LDV, which was taken over by Russian automotive firm GAZ in July, with sales in the year to September 13.36 per cent down at 5,454.

The overall light commercial vehicle segment saw sales fall by 1.42 per cent to 44,512 during September, although they were up 0.24 per cent up in the year to date.

Steve Miller, marketing director of LDV insisted the company was not panicking and was instead heading for better sales in the future.

"The future is looking good. It is regrettable when you get statistics which show you are down, but don't tell the whole story.

"Last year's figures included the Pilot and Convoy, which we ceased producing in December.

"This year they only cover the Maxus van, which on its own is 56 per cent ahead of last year.

"We are not panicking about these figures at all. Maxus is the product which is our future and its sales have grown during the year.

"We have an excellent order book, production is increasing and we are taking on more staff."

Mr Miller said Maxus sales had increased from 2,907 in the year to September 2005 to 4,658 this year.

He added the firm expected to see increased sales from the Maxus minibus which had only just been launched, while higher production levels were scheduled following the recruitment of 43 new staff last month.

The LDV factory in Drews Lane now employs just under 900, with the extra recruitment allowing the firm to raise production from 150 to 200 vans per week.

Mr Miller added the company was already benefiting from the ownership by GAZ, which had ended much of the uncertainty surrounding LDV's future.

He said the company was looking to increase production levels from the anticipated 8,500 this year to around 12,500 for the UK market next year, with a further 2,500 planned for export.

LDV has recently displayed Maxus at the world's biggest commercial vehicle show - the IAA Show in Hanover, Germany, and begun recruiting dealers to sell its products on mainland Europe.

Dealers from Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain and Poland have all voiced interest with LDV hoping to make appointments by the end of the year.

Mr Miller said: "The production levels for next year will be around 15,000 which will be the biggest we have had since the mid 1990s.

"People were a little tentative at the beginning of the year, but now we are getting some reasonable sized orders."

The link up with GAZ, which is the seventh biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, also helped LDV expand its markets, he added.

"Eight weeks ago we were only planning to exhibit our vans at two shows in the UK - at Gaydon and at the Ricoh stadium in Coventry.

"Now we have been able to present our vans at the Moscow Motor Show and Hanover. There is a confidence about the business there was not before.

"We have had the missing link which gives us the economies of scale to compete in this global industry."