Ford had worst European summer vacation

Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:01am EDT
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By Laurence Frost

PARIS (Reuters) - European car sales fell 8.5 percent in August, for an 11th straight monthly decline led by Ford (F.N: Quote), General Motors (GM.N: Quote) and Fiat FIA.MI and mid-market brands bore the brunt of the slump in markets including Italy, France and Germany.

The region recorded 722,483 registrations last month, the Brussels-based Association of European Automakers said, compared with 789,458 a year earlier. Sales for the first eight months fell 6.6 percent to 8.59 million vehicles.

Ford (F.N: Quote) had the worst August among major automakers, with sales plunging 29 percent year-on-year. European registrations always hit a seasonal low in the biggest summer vacation month.

The U.S. automaker is considering factory cuts even as it prepares to roll out new models to halt mounting losses and falling market share in the region.

"We are looking at all elements of the business, including cost," Ford of Europe chief Stephen Odell said earlier this month.

General Motors (GM.N: Quote), which is also preparing job cuts and an eventual factory closure in talks with unions at its Opel brand, saw total registrations drop 18 percent last month, matched by the sales decline at Italy's Fiat FIA.MI.

With the exception of Spain, austerity-strapped markets worst hit by the debt crisis continued to suffer, with registrations contracting 20 percent in Italy and 11 percent in France, while British sales were little changed.

Spanish sales rose 3.4 percent as customers rushed to complete purchases ahead of a September 1 sales tax increase - but have since plunged 28 percent, according to car retailers' association Ganvam.   Continued...

Cars rest at an almost-empty parking lot at the Ford Motor Company's factory in Almussafes near Valencia September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Heino Kalis