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FRANKFURT, March 16 (Reuters) - European new car registrations rose 2.1 percent in February, even as large markets like Germany and volume brands like VW, Opel, Vauxhall and Peugeot posted lower sales, the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) said on Thursday.
Car sales in the European Union and the countries of the European Free Trade Association reached 1,114,443 vehicles last month thanks to 6.2 percent rise in sales in Italy, a 15 percent increase in the Netherlands, and a 0.2 percent gain in demand for cars in Spain.
Large markets including Germany, France and Britain saw sales fall 2.6 percent, 2.9 percent and 0.3 percent respectively in what is traditionally a slow sales month.
Volkswagen's VW brand saw February sales fall 7 percent, while Peugeot saw sales drop 3.7 percent and Opel/Vauxhall recorded a fall of 1.2 percent in deliveries.
Among the top gainers was Fiat, with an 8.3 percent sales rise and Renault, which saw a 5.3 percent increase in registrations.
Among the premium brands, Mercedes-Benz recorded a 3.4 percent sales gain, outpacing rival Audi, which saw a 2.2 percent rise, while rival BMW saw registrations fall by 0.5 percent, ACEA figures showed.
While demand for passenger cars in the European Union alone increased only modestly by 2.2 percent, the 1,078,503 registrations comes close to February 2008 levels, just before the economic crisis hit, ACEA said. (Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Maria Sheahan)