The European (EU23 + EFTA countries) passenger car market has got off to a good start with registrations up 2.5% in the first two months of the year. February sales were up 2.1% to 1,079,101 units, according to ACEA, up from 1,056,502 units a year earlier.

Nevertheless five of the five largest markets were in decline. They were Spain, Germany and the UK. Italy recorded strong growth (+6%), while France was up just 0.6%. Belgium posted almost 21% growth as it continued to benefit from the Brussels Motor Show.

Of the major European OEMs, Fiat and Volkswagen recorded the highest growth. Fiat sales were up 14.8 the first two months to 200,420 units, up from 174,520 in 2005. Volkswagen recorded a similar level of growth with sales of 454,530, and a 19.4% share of the market, up from 17.4% a year ago.

Renault was the worst performer with sales down 12% in the first two months, despite the recent launch of the third generation Clio in October last year and a facelift for the Megane at the beginning of this year.