January 17, 2018 / 7:00 AM / in a year

European car sales drop 4.8 pct in December

MILAN, Jan 17 (Reuters) - European car sales fell 4.8 percent in December from the same month a year ago due in part to one less working day, with sales at all major automakers except PSA Group and BMW contracting, industry data showed on Wednesday.

Registrations fell to 1.14 million cars last month in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, Brussel-based Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) said, from 1.19 million a year earlier.

Full-year sales were up 3.3 percent to 15.6 million autos.

“European demand for cars grew for the fourth consecutive year, reaching more than 15 million new passenger cars registered for the first time since 2007,” the industry group said in a statement.

European car sales returned to annual growth in 2014 after a six-year slump during which registrations fell to their lowest in decades. Demand has been growing most months since, as a pick up in consumer confidence, retail incentives and new product launches lured customers back to the showrooms.

Sales by France’s PSA Group soared 60.7 percent in December to 170,722 vehicles as registrations of the newly-acquired Opel-Vauxhall division were not included in year-earlier records.

Demand for the French carmaker’s Peugeot and Citroen brands also grew, up 9.8 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

BMW sales increased 5.7 percent, helped by higher demand for the German carmaker’s namesake brand and its MINI models.

But December registrations fell at all other major car manufacturers, including Europe’s biggest carmaker, Volkswagen , which recorded a 4.5 percent drop.

The German group’s market share remained roughly stable year-on-year in December at 23.6 percent.

France’s Renault saw a 4.6 percent decline, despite a boost in demand for its no-frills Dacia lineup, while sales at Japan’s Toyota fell 4.2 percent, despite the Lexus brand recording a 4.8 percent gain.

Sales from the Fiat Chrysler stable fell 16.1 percent during the last month of 2017, despite an 11.8 percent rise in demand for its popular Jeep sport-utility vehicles. Registrations for the Fiat brand tumbled 20 percent and were 7 percent lower at its sporty Alfa Romeo marque.

All five major markets, except for Spain, recorded sales contractions last month, led by the United Kingdom, where registrations fell 14.4 percent, marking the country’s ninth straight month of decline. Spanish sales rose 6.2 percent.

For last year as a whole, Britain was the only major European market to record a sales drop, down 5.7 percent, hit by uncertainty over potential new diesel charges and weakening consumer confidence after the Brexit vote. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Mark Potter)

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