European car sales up for first time since 2011

Updated: Friday, 17 May 2013 17:05

The European car industry may be showing the first signs of a slowdown in its sales free-fall, according to data from the European automaker's association.

New car registrations in April were up 1.7% on the same time last year, the ACEA's latest figures show.

Although the April rise has more to do with the two extra work days last month due to an early Easter, sales figures for the year so far gave some cause for hope.

Last month, the ACEA showed registrations for the first three months of 2013 were down 10% on the year before. Latest figures show that sales for the first four months of the year were 7.1% less than in 2012.

The car industry has been victim of the region's deepening recession and rising unemployment, and Europe's carmakers are looking to see when the bottom will hit. Many have had to announce factory closures or put off new car launches in bids for survival.

The fortunes of the car industry have a big impact on the rest of Europe. According to the ACEA, the auto industry directly employs 2.3 million people, mainly highly skilled workers, and supports about another 10 million jobs among the carmakers' suppliers.

The declining car market in Europe has been weighing on global carmakers' bottom lines. Last year, four of the biggest car makers based in Europe - Ford, PSA Peugeot, Fiat and General Motors - together posted operating losses of €5 billion for the region.

In April, 1.038 million new cars were registered in the European Union, up from the historic low for April of 1.021 million reached in 2012, the ACEA said. Sales rebounded in Germany, posting a 3.8% gain in April compared with the previous year.

Sales also were up in Spain, helped by new incentives, and continued strong in Britain. France and Italy, the number three and four car markets, posted declines of 5.3% and 10.8% respectively.