Economic woes drive down European new car lust | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 15.03.2012
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Economic woes drive down European new car lust

The decline in new car sales in Europe accelerated in February, compounding fears of yet another dire year for the European auto market. Sales figures from 30 European states show only Germany to be holding out.

New car registrations in the 27-nation EU plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland plunged 9.2 percent in February to just 923.381 units sold in the month, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said Thursday.

The ACEA says the pace of decline in the European car market "accelerated" in February as European sales were already down 6.6 percent fewer cars in January, compared with the same month a year ago.

All of Europe's major car markets have been affected, except Germany which is bucking the downward trend by keeping the number of new cars sold "at least steady."

However, France - the second biggest market - has reported the steepest fall in sales, down 20.2 percent.

In addition, big markets in Italy and the UK have also been hit, reporting declining sales of 18.9 percent and 2.5 percent respectively in February.

Industry shakeout

European car sales have been withering for the past four years against the backdrop of an estimated 20 percent overcapacity in the continent's carmaking industry.

The problems were "compounded" by the eurzone debt crisis, said the ACEA, which had caused sales figures especially in debt-laden countries, like Greece and Portugal, to slump in the double-digit range last year.

As a result, Europe's car industry is struggling, with only Germany's luxury carmaker Daimler reporting a rise by 4.3 percent in sales for February.

French manufacturers Renault and PSA Peugeot, for example, sold 24 percent and 16.8 percent fewer cars in Europe last month.

uhe/za (dpa, Reuters)