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Europe new car sales up 0.3% in Jan – ACEA

New passenger-car registrations slipped 0.3% in Europe in January, with robust sales in emerging markets to the east offsetting stagnant sales in the west, figures from the ACEA car industry association show.

The result is a likely indicator of the trend for the year. Europe’s major automakers expect a flat market in their home markets due to weaker consumer confidence in a slower economy. France’s Renault, which along with other automakers reported results this week, said the European market would decline this year. Peugeot Citroen also expected Europe to be weak, describing the business environment as challenging. Like the other two automakers, Daimler of Germany said growth would come from emerging markets like China, India, Russia and elsewhere. Registrations for the 27 member states of the European Union (EU27) and EFTA countries totaled 1,308,761 units in January, according to the ACEA figures published on Friday.

Those for western Europe -- 15 EU member countries and EFTA countries -- fell 1.7%. Excluding EFTA, the total fell 1.6%. In sharp contrast, registrations in new member states jumped 20.1%. “For the fourth month in a row their registrations went up by more than 10%,”

ACEA said in a statement. “In absolute figures, the four leading markets clearly are Romania, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.” Poland, for example, saw registrations rise by 24.6%. Of the five major markets in western Europe, only Germany -- with a 10.5% gain -- had more registrations than last year, recording the second-highest sales volume in the last five years, ACEA said.

The rise in Germany came after a very January in 2007 when a tax increase hit sales. Other countries like Britain, France and Italy all declined, with Spain the worst with a 12.7% drop. “This may be due to the global credit crunch, impacting spending and confidence,” ACEA said. Among the biggest car makers by market share, the Volkswagen group fared best, with sales rising a meager 0.6%, while GM did the worst, falling 8.1%. For full details, double click on the following link to ACEA’s Web site (Reuters)