Car sales in Germany declined by 2.9% in 2012 to reach 3.08m units, according to data released by the VDIK association of car importers.

The VDIK noted that the annual total for 2012 was significantly lower than that predicted a year ago.

The decline in Western Europe's biggest national car market is much less dramatic than has occurred in other European markets, but it is still cause for concern in a region suffering severe economic problems. 

"If the economic situation stabilises and existing consumption extends to the car market, then the VDIK believes new car registrations of more than 3 million to as much as the 2012 level are possible," VDIK President Volker Lange said in a statement.

The German automotive industry association VDA warned last month that although the German car market is fairing relatively well in European terms, the declining trend is a worry.

“This is because the underlying economic data do not provide any clear explanation of why the German market is so sluggish. Employment in Germany remains high, earning prospects are still good, and yet consumer spending is tending to fall,” said Matthias Wissmann, VDA president.

The VDA also noted that the proportion of car sales to private buyers is declining – from 43% in 2010, to 41% in 2011, and to just under 39% during 2012. Up to the middle of the last decade this share to retail buyers exceeded 45%, according to the VDA.

“The state debt crises in the eurozone have been dominating the headlines for over two years now,” Wissmann said. “This never-ending topic depresses the mood and generates a wait-and-see attitude. People who are confronted at breakfast day in, day out, with the question of whether this or that EU country can still pay its debts – and what the corresponding rescue measures might mean for German taxpayers – are not going to hive off to their local car dealer in the afternoon full of eager anticipation about buying a new car."