European car sales sink to 20-year low

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European car sales sink to 20-year low

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European car sales slumped to their lowest total in 20 years in the first six months of 2013 with the region’s auto industry hit by heavy losses from overcapacity and weak demand.

Unemployment and austerity measures have curbed consumer spending with sales suffering an almost uninterrupted fall for the last two years.

The statistics from the Association of European Carmakers covering all 27 EU countries showed a 6.6 percent fall in the first half of this year.

In France sales were down 11.2 percent, Italy 10.3 percent and Germany 8.1 percent. Britain was the only major car market to expand, with sales up 10 percent – its 16th straight month of gains.

Fewer than 1.2 million new cars were registered last month. That was the lowest June figure for 17 years, though analysts said they were encouraged that sales fell at a slower pace than in many previous months.

“The market has bottomed out, for sure,” said Pierluigi Bellini, head of sales forecasts for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at IHS Automotive. “We can’t talk about a recovery this year, but we see smaller monthly declines going forward.”

However as the figures were released, BMW’s boss Norbert Reithofer said he does not expect to see a pick-up until at least the middle of next year.

In June Italy’s Fiat was worst hit, with a 13.6 percent slide, followed by a 10.9 percent fall at France’s Peugeot.