The latest new car sales information for the first quarter shows that, despite what was looking like an improving market; sales across Europe were slightly down on last year.
Although there was an uplift in sales during February, average sales in March 2011 fell by 4.6%.
The European market dropped by 1.8% (68,726 units) during Q1 2011 compared to the same period last year and by 4.6% in March.
Volkswagen retains and consolidates its position as the leading brand, selling 425,863 units in the period.
Gareth Hession, Jato’s vice president, research said: “While there had been some positive signals from the industry during the first three months of this year, economic instability in some of the more mature automotive markets have hit overall sales.
“Despite this, it is encouraging to see growth in central and Eastern Europe, where manufacturers will no doubt be looking to expand further. Investment in vehicles tailored for this region will be crucial to their success there.”
Only two of the ‘big five’ markets showed positive growth during Q1 2011: France and Germany were up 8.9% and 13.9% respectively while the UK, Italy and Spain were down 8.7%, 23.3% and 27.3%.
Out of these markets, Germany experienced the greatest unit growth in Q1, up 92,993 units, while Italy saw the biggest decline, down 156,269 units.
While sales in central and Eastern Europe have performed consistently well during 2011 as automotive markets expand in the region, the well publicised economic troubles in countries such as Greece and Portugal have been clearly reflected in poor sales for the quarter.
Volkswagen maintains its leading position in Europe for the quarter, extending its lead over rivals, with sales increasing 5.7%.
In contrast, Fiat saw the biggest decline out of the regions’ top ten brands, down 25.3%, largely reflecting the poor performance of its home market, Italy.
Outside the top 10 brands a number of premium brands have experienced strong sales for the quarter, including Alfa-Romeo and Porsche, up 49.6% and 26.5% respectively, largely due to strong sales of the new Giulietta and latest Cayenne models.