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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Car sales in Europe rose 1.8 percent in August with volume makers Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), Ford (F.N) and Opel (GM.N) benefiting from improved demand in Spain, Portugal and Ireland, while premium makers lost ground due to a drop in sales in Germany.
New passenger car registrations in the European Union (EU) and the countries of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) rose to 701,118 vehicles in August, from 688,464 in the year-earlier period, data from the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) showed.
A recovery in demand in Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries formerly plagued by austerity, helped lift momentum in favour of mass market brands, with sales of VW branded cars up 14 percent, Ford up 15.2 percent and Opel registrations rising 7.5 percent.
By contrast, August registrations of BMW cars fell 2.0 percent, Mercedes-Benz car sales fell 3.9 percent and Audi (NSUG.DE) registrations fell 7.6 percent.
Car sales fell 0.4 percent in Germany, Europe's largest car market which is a traditional stronghold for the German luxury makers.
Europe's car industry is gradually emerging from a six-year slump, with sales bottoming out last year as austerity-hit consumers cut back on expensive purchases.
Aside from the slump in sales in Germany, the slip in registrations among premium auto makers may also be down to a shift in sales tactics.
"We have to find the right balance between volume and pricing," BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer told analysts in August. "If you reduce your volume, you can even have a better profit."
A 26 percent jump in car sales in Portugal and a 13.7 percent jump in Spain helped to offset a 2.6 percent drop in France and a 0.2 percent fall in registrations in Italy, the latest figures from industry body ACEA showed.
ACEA also released sales figures for July. Passenger car registrations in the EU and EFTA countries rose 5.6 percent on the year, to 1,081,686 vehicles.
Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Kirsti Knolle