Car sales rise again as European economies recover

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Car sales rise again as European economies recover

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European car sales rose by 7.6 percent in February from a year ago, with the gradual economic recovery boosting demand for mass-market brands.

Sales grew 17.8 percent in Spain, 40.2 percent in Portugal and 20.6 percent in Ireland.

Italy, Europe’s fourth-biggest car market, saw sales increase by 8.6 percent .

But in the second-largest – France – they fell 1.4 percent.

Registrations in Germany, the top car market, underperformed the regional trend, with a 4.3 percent increase.

European car sales have suffered a six-year slump, falling to their worst in 20 years, as people cut back on expensive purchases amid austerity and uncertainty about job security.

Context is everything however, and industry players pointed out the gains comes from historic lows. In Italy, for example, car sales are recovering from levels last seen in the 1970s.

“Sales have effectively been growing, but discounting practices have been following a very similar path, it seems,” Carlos Da Silva, an analyst with market researchers IHS Automotive, said in a note. “This would tend to indicate that the overall situation remains more tense than it might appear.”

Breakdown by marque

Sales at Renault Group jumped 11.5 percent, boosted mainly by a 33.6 percent surge in registrations of its cheaper Dacia brand.

Ford sales were up 11.3 percent. Toyota Group, the world’s biggest-selling car maker, posted a 14 percent increase, and General Motors saw sales go up 12.3 percent, boosted by a 15.6 percent increase in registrations of its Opel- and Vauxhall-branded vehicles.

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

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