After a strong end to 2002, January produced the smallest crop of car sales in Western Europe of any January since 1997, about 7% below last year's level. The seasonally adjusted annualised selling rate (SAAR), at 13.7 mn units/year, was also the lowest for five years. Continued weakness in German car demand can partly be blamed on uncertainty about plans to raise company car taxation. But in Western Europe as a whole, the weakening economic situation, rising unemployment and falling consumer confidence are enough to account for most of the decline in car sales.