Though car sales are slumping in Spain, drivers here are buying bigger and pricier models, dealers' federation Faconauto said.

In a statement, it noted that the average consumer spend on a new car in the first half of 2006 was EUR21,332, up 4.2% on the same period a year ago. Dealer promotions fell 9.2%, it added.

Spaniards tended to buy bigger and more powerful cars this year, Faconauto said, snapping up models on average 2.8% more powerful.

A Faconauto spokeswoman told just-auto this was due to an improved price/specification mix for the more expensive vehicles, notably SUVs.

"When people go to dealers, they realise that the more expensive cars offer more for the money than they could get years ago," she said.

Spanish light vehicle sales fell 0.5% in the first half to 865,399 units, according to Facounauto, which represents 3,000 dealers.

Car sales fell 1% to 800,797 units but SUV sales rose 7% to 65,207.

Faconauto is sticking to its forecast of a 1.7% decline in total unit sales this year.

And it reiterated that this year's slowdown is due mostly to rising interest rates and energy prices in Spain.

Ivan Castano