European car sales up on gains in former crisis countries

Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:11am EST
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By Edward Taylor

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European car sales rose 5.2 percent in January, with increases in previously crisis-hit countries such as Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal suggesting a recovery is gaining strength.

The Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) said on Tuesday car sales in the European Union and the European Free Trade Association trading bloc totaled 967,778 vehicles last month.

Europe's car industry endured a six year slump, with sales falling to their lowest level for around 20 years as austerity-hit consumers cut back on expensive purchases, but has recently returned to growth.

"The signs of a recovery of the European market, which first became apparent in the second half of last year, continued in January. None of the large markets were down, and some of the smaller markets have picked up," said Eric Heymann, an analyst at Deutsche Bank.

The number of cars sold under the Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), Peugeot (PEUP.PA: Quote) and Renault (RENA.PA: Quote) brands - the three largest in Europe by market share - rose 7.6 percent, 8.8 percent and 3.8 percent respectively, ACEA said.

Manufacturers were cautiously optimistic.

"Today's figures show that we're on the road to recovery," said Allan Rushforth, chief operating officer at Hyundai Motor Europe.

"The question is how much of that recovery is organic and how much is the result of actions taken by governments and carmakers," he added, referring to subsidy schemes and big discounts which have helped to revive car purchases.   Continued...

File photo of employees working on Mercedes-Benz S-class cars at the plant in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files