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European new car sales weak in first quarter

European new car sales were weak in the first quarter of 2007 – some 0.3% down on the same period of 2006 to 3,855,816 units, according to ACEA, the European vehicle traders association.

Germany is down 10% to 717,536 units so far this year with less new car registrations than Italy, which is up 4.1% (733,223). France is down 1.4% (519,919) and 0.7% (410,534) fewer cars have been registered in Spain than in the first quarter of 2006. The UK is up by 2.9% (668,476).

Except for Hungary and Slovenia, the new EU members have all seen big increases in registrations in the first quarter of 2007 compared to 2006. Although off a smaller base than for Western Europe, sales in the accession states increased by 13.8% (265,249) with Latvia recording 73.8% (7,939) and Estonia 48.9% (7,651). The largest of the new EU member states – Poland – recorded a 24.5% increase to 72,763 units in the first quarter.

The best performing brand in Europe was Honda – up 17.6% in the first quarter – followed by Toyota (up 12.9%) with the Fiat Group continuing its grwoth (up 6.4%).

The Renault Group continued to suffer with new car registrations falling 9.9% in the first quarter of 2007, although Mazda (down 11.9%) and Nissan (down 16.9%) posted much larger falls.

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