European car sales up for sixth straight month

Car registrations rose to 894,730 vehicles in February


European car sales rose 7.6 per cent in February, as a gradual economic recovery in Portugal, Spain and Italy boosted demand for mass market brands.

New passenger car registrations in the European Union and European Free Trade Association trading block rose for the sixth consecutive month to 894,730 vehicles in February from 831,371 in the same month last year, according to data from the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA).

Europe’s car industry endured a six-year slump, with sales falling to their lowest level in two decades as austerity-hit consumers cut back on expensive purchases, but the market has recently returned to growth.

While registrations in top car market Germany underperformed the regional trend with a 4.3 per cent increase and fell by 1.4 per cent in Europe’s second-biggest car market France, sales grew in double digits in some states most hit by the crisis.

Sales in Spain, Portugal and Ireland grew by 17.8 per cent, 40.2 per cent and 20.6 per cent, respectively, showing that a fragile recovery in the region was gaining momentum.

In Italy, the region’s fourth-biggest market, recovering from its longest recession in 70 years, sales grew 8.6 per cent.

Sales at Renault jumped 11.5 per cent, boosted mainly by a 33.6 per cent surge in registrations of its no-frills Dacia brand. Ford sales were up 11.3 per cent, Toyota, the world’s biggest-selling car maker, posted a 14 per cent increase, while General Motors saw sales go up 12.3 per cent, boosted by a 15.6 per cent increase in registrations of its Open and Vauxhall branded vehicles.

Germany’s Volkswagen group, Europe’s biggest carmaker by volume, posted a 7.2 per cent rise, helped by a 21.5 per cent increase at its value brand Skoda, a 15.7 per cent jump in Seat sales and an 11.8 per cent gain at its premium brand Audi. VW’s performance was weighed down by a 0.8 per cent decline in sales at its namesake brand.

French carmaker PS lost some market share in February. Its overall sales grew 3.5 per cent, supported by an increase in registrations of its Peugeot brand, but sales of Citroen branded cars were roughly flat year-on-year.