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Auto Industry

European car sales still in low gear but gathering speed

In January, the number of new car registrations in the European Union rose for the fifth consecutive month. But the continent’s car crisis is far from over, as sales were still the second lowest for a January since 2003.

Demand for new cars in the 28-nation European Union rose 5.5 percent in January, compared with the same months a year ago, the .

As new car registrations reached 935,640 units, January sales marked the fifth consecutive monthly rise, the ACEA said. However, the upswing happened on the basis of historically low absolute figures. This meant that January sales were still the second lowest for this month since the ACEA started taking records in 2003, the organization added.

Car markets across the EU virtually collapsed in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone. In 2013, sales hit rock bottom, slumping to 11.85 million vehicles for the year. This came close to the historic low of 11.7 million sales reached in 1995, but with significantly fewer EU members.

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Nevertheless, the rise in January may herald an end to the car crisis, the ACEA noted. This was because sales surged in all of the EU's main markets in the month. Markets in the UK and Spain rose by a whole 7.6 percent, while Germany recorded growth of 7.2 percent. Even struggling Italy and France carved out growth of 3.2 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

With minus 13.6 percent, Austria led a total of five laggards in the EU which recorded falling car sales in January.

With regard to Europe's auto makers, the ACEA recorded the biggest gains of between 7 percent and 13 percent for Germany's Volkswagen, as well as for French carmakers PSA and Renault. On the downside, GM subsidiary Opel and Italy's Fiat posted falling sales, while German luxury brands BMW and Mercedes stayed basically the same.

uhe/tj (Reuters, dpa)

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