* 2016 sales up 5 pct to 3.35 mln cars -VDA
* Dec sales up only 4 pct despite extra selling days
* Analysts cite weakening GDP, rising petrol prices as risks
(Adds analyst comments, detail and background)
FRANKFURT/BERLIN, Jan 4 German car sales grew
the most in seven years in 2016, the VDA industry association
said, but analysts expect the expansion to grind to a halt this
year amid a weakening economy and rising petrol prices.
Registrations of new passenger cars in Europe's largest auto
market rose 5 percent last year to 3.35 million vehicles, the
highest level since 2009 when deliveries were fuelled by
state-backed scrapping premiums, the VDA said on Wednesday.
But December deliveries only rose 4 percent despite two more
selling days than a year earlier, held back by weakening
momentum in commercial registrations.
"Growth dynamics in the German car market should weaken
noticeably in the new year," said Peter Fuss, a senior partner
and automotive specialist in Ernst & Young's German practice.
"Further growth will be difficult from a sales level that is
already high," Fuss said, forecasting deliveries to rise another
2 percent in 2017 on the back of persistent sales incentives.
Incentives in Germany have risen by about a quarter since
2010 and will sustain sales again this year, said Ferdinand
Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research,
predicting registrations to be flat this year.
Germany's expansion last year was mirrored by a second year
of strong growth in France, Europe's third-largest auto market,
where deliveries increased 5.1 percent to more than 2 million
vehicles, helped by a 5.8 percent gain in December.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz; Additional
reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and