Indicating the possibility of a lean year ahead, new car registrations in Western Europe fell in January. They were down 0.2% compared with the same month last year. That following a big jump in December, when sales increased by 7.7%. There were wide variations, with an 8.2% fall in the UK and a 6.5% rise in France.
The eight countries that joined the EU last year did even worse, sales there tumbled 12.7%. Among the top five manufacturers only Renault and General Motors increased their sales – Renault by 15.3%. BMW, which has just announced record sales in Asia, also did well in Europe with a 2.1% gain. Most companies are predicting European car sales will be flat this year and they will have to fight for customers with incentives and new models. Some said last December’s figures were inflated by marketing tricks that did not translate into profit.