European car sales fell 12% to 1.25m in April from 1.43m a year ago according to the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA). Sales for the first four months were down 16% year on year to 4.69m.

ACEA noted that, although government-funded subsidies and scrappage schemes have boosted sales of smaller vehicles in some countries, the makers of larger luxury models have taken a hit, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota - particularly the latter's luxury brand Lexus.

BMW registrations dropped by almost a third to 55,633 even as the German market expanded 19%, helped by the government's EUR2,500 (US$3,400) incentive to scrap older cars for newer, more efficient models -- the most generous 'scrappage' offer in Europe.

Daimler posted a 26% decline to 60,214 sales, led by its Mercedes  luxury brand, while Toyota volume fell 22% to 57,774 cars. Demand for Volkswagen's Golf bolstered its sales which were off just 4.2% to 284,607.

PSA Peugeot Citroen registrations fell 15% to 156,726 registrations as Peugeot brand volume slumped 19%. Renault was down 14%.

On the plus side, however, Hyundai increased sales Europe-wide 10% to 27,454 and Fiat also bucked the downward trend with a 4.7% rise to 121,671 as demand for the retro-styled 500 continued to soar.

Germany and Austria (+13%) were the only markets to post increases in April to 380,000 and 36,000 units respectively.

France, which had grown 8% in March on the back of its government incentive scheme, fell away again last month by 7.1% to 184,500 registrations.

Of the other major western European markets, Italy was down 7.5% to 188,500, the UK fell 24% to 133,500 and Spain continued in freefall - down over 46% to 67,200.

Eastern European market registrations dropped 21%, almost twice the rate of decline in the west, as Romanian demand fell by more than half.

Central/east Europe Q1 car sales off 31.8%