European car sales, helped by incentives in major markets to scrap old vehicles, rose for the first time in 14 months in June in a further sign the battered industry may be past its low point and lifting the sector.

New car sales rose 2.4% year-on-year in June when 1,461,859 vehicles were registered in Europe, according to industry body ACEA.

The industry directly employs 2.2 million in Europe.

Yesterday, BMW's head of sales and marketing suggested the worst was over for the high-end car sector and the company was ready to increase production in the next six months.

ACEA noted the 'steep downward trend' of sales sparked by the credit crunch and worsening economic climate started in May 2008, and that already in June last year sales were down 7.9% compared with June 2007.

Its monthly figures came as bidders prepared to submit detailed offers for a stake in General Motors' German unit Opel, and Porsche rebuffed Volkswagen's merger plan, according to a German newspaper.

Scrapping incentive schemes – whereby governments allocate funds to pay drivers bonuses for trading in old models for newer, less-polluting vehicles – are now in place in all major European markets and have mostly boosted sales of smaller cars.

Sales in Germany jumped 40.5%, Italian sales rose 12.4% and French sales were up 7.0%. Newer support measures in Britain, which posted a 15.7% drop, and Spain – down 15.9% - cushioned the downturn, ACEA said.

In the first six months of the year, passenger car sales were down 11% in Europe, which for ACEA's figures includes the 27 EU member states plus the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries, but excludes Cyprus and Malta.