European car sales rise 5.7 pct in March but VW brand dips

European new car sales rose 5.7
percent last month, industry data showed on Friday, despite a
fall in sales for Volkswagen’s core brand and fewer
trading days in March due to Easter.

Sales of VW brand models slumped 4 percent in January but
returned to growth in February suggesting the impact from the
diesel emissions scandal was beginning to wane.

But demand fell 1.6 percent in March, according to the
European auto industry association ACEA, despite the brand
recording its best performance in Britain, Europe’s second
largest car market, since September.

There were fewer trading days in March due to Easter, which
fell in April in 2015, but VW’s mass-market brand rivals Peugeot
, Ford and General Motors’ Opel/Vauxhall
all grew, with sales up 2 percent, 0.6 percent and 6.4 percent

Overall, registrations rose to 1.745 million cars from 1.652
a year earlier, according to data for the European Union (EU)
and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

In the first three months of the year, registrations
increased 8.1 percent to 3.932 million vehicles compared to the
same period in 2015.

Nearly every European country recorded growth last month but
sales fell 0.7 percent in Spain and dipped marginally in
Germany, the continent’s biggest automotive market.

Italy recorded the strongest rise of any major market with
demand rising 17.4 percent followed by France where sales
increased 7.5 percent.

The ACEA said EU sales rose for the 31st month in a row in
March hitting levels close to those recorded in 2007, shortly
before the economic crisis began to hit the car industry.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas, editing by David Evans)

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