British buyer help drive up European car sales

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Britain’s resilient new car market and the early Easter break have helped fuel the first rise in European motor sales in 18 months.

Industry figures yesterday showed that new car registrations rose 1.8 per cent to 1.08 million in April, compared with a year ago. The last rise was in September 2011.

A pick-up in Germany and Spain also boosted the latest result though a number of one-off factors suggest that a sustained recovery may be harder to achieve. The figures, published by industry association ACEA, were flattered by two extra sales days in many European markets after Easter holidays fell in March rather than April, with last year’s weak April also helping the year-on-year comparison.

Demand for new cars in recession-hit Europe fell to a 17-year low last year as eurozone unemployment hit record highs, credit dried up and households focused on repaying debt.

Despite last month’s upturn, the ACEA pointed out that it was still the third-lowest level of new registrations for the month of April.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at forecasting consultancy IHS Global Insight, said: “It’s a bit like the ‘dead cat bounce’ because car sales have been so low for so long, but I’m wary about calling this a turning point because consumers in most of the eurozone remain under pressure.

“Germany is the best market to see future upticks because the fundamentals for consumers there, such as high employment and wage growth, are better than elsewhere.”