Data released by ACEA shows that February new car sales in the EU were down by 9.7% on last year at 888,878 units.

In the first two months of 2012, 1.86m cars were sold, 8.3% down on the same period a year earlier.

In February, demand for new cars dropped in all major markets, except Germany where registrations remained stable (-0.0%). Spain (-2.1%), the UK (-2.5%), Italy (-18.9%) and France (-20.2%) all saw their markets shrink.

The big February declines in France and Italy meant that PSA, Renualt and Fiat were particularly hard hit.

In the first two months PSA (EU area car sales of 237,175 units) and Renault (219,297 units) saw their sales fall by 15.8% and 24.6% versus last year. Fiat was down 16.4% with its EU sales at 132,954 units.

Most manufacturers have struggled in Europe this year as consumer confidence has deteriorated amid a general slowing of economic growth. However, premium brands such as BMW and Daimler are holding up well.

Hyundai and Kia have both managed to grow sales this year. Hyundai car sales stood at 62,000 units in the first two months (+11.7%), while Kia's reached 43,743 units (+30.7%).

Jaguar Land Rover also bucked the negative market trend, with the two brands' combined sales reaching 16,428 units in the first two months, 45% ahead of last year (Land Rover at 8,917 units, 54.5% up on last year).