New car sales in western Europe fell for the third month running in March due to slack demand and the fact the Easter holidays fell early. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association’s figures reflect the region’s higher fuel prices, rising unemployment and stagnant economic growth. New registrations dipped by 3.7% to 1.64 million vehicles in March, which is traditionally the busiest month of the year for car sales in Europe.
Germany, the biggest market, fell 1%, Britain, the second largest, was down 5.5% and Italy declined 8.6%. BMW again bucked the trend, with a 7.5% increase in sales, thanks to new models while its arch-rival DaimlerChrysler edged down 2.6%. South Korean manufacturers saw strong growth, with Kia Motors’ registrations up by 85% last month. Its share of the European market nearly doubled to 1.5%. The slowdown in demand was illustrated by Renault’s decision this week to reduce production of the Modus at Valladolid, Spain and shut its plant in Sandouville, France, for a week to slowdown output. Renault’s sales last month in Western Europe fell 6.7%.