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Business

European car sales grow, but at slower pace

Concerns over unemployment and Greece's debt saga have put the brakes on car sales in the European Union. Those sales have risen steadily since 2013 but lately they have done so at a slower pace.

European car sales rose for the 21st month in a row last May, the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association (ACEA) said Tuesday as it reported a year-on-year increase in new registrations of 1.3 percent.

Vehicle sales are a

closely watched indicator of economic health

. They dropped sharply following the 2008 global financial crisis but have been rising steadily since September 2013.

ACEA said fewer than 1.11 million passenger cars were sold last month, compared with about 1.095 million in the same month a year earlier.

Spain leads the pack

The increase in May was lower than in previous months, prompting economists to suggest that the automobile industry was gradually losing steam.

That's certainly the case in Germany - Europe's biggest car market - where new registrations dipped by 6.7 percent in May year on year. Sales also went down in the Continent's second largest economy, France, by 3.5 percent.

The overall monthly increase was driven by demand in Spain, where vehicle sales surged by 14 percent, and in Italy, which posted a 10.8 percent improvement.

Germany's 12-brand Volkswagen Group retained its leadership position in May with an EU market share of 25.5 percent, followed by France's Peugeot-Citroen and Renault.

hg/cjc (AFP, Reuters)

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