New passenger car registrations in Europe declined by 27% in January compared to the same month a year earlier, according to data issued by the European carmakers' association ACEA.
 
ACEA said that European car sales have now declined for nine successive months and January's level was was the lowest in two decades.
 
In absolute numbers, January 2009 volumes reached 958,500 units.
 
In Western Europe, 891,505 new passenger cars were registered, or 26.5% less compared to January last year. Iceland recorded the steepest fall (-88.1%), followed by Ireland (66.5%). With the exception of France (-7.9%), all markets faced a double-digit downturn. Looking at the major markets, Germany (-14.2%) fared the best after France, while the UK (-30.9%), Italy (-32.6%) and Spain (-41.6%) began 2009 with large volume losses.
 
 
Earlier this week ACEA called for urgent help for the auto industry in Europe and said that existing measures are insufficient to meet the industry's needs.
 
"The measures that the EU has agreed upon so far are insufficient to meet the needs of our industry. In October last year, we have called for low-interest loans amounting to € 40 billion. Up to today, vehicle manufacturers have already applied for over EUR6bn in EIB loans and the funds needed in 2009 alone could easily add up to EUR15bn. Similar levels may well be necessary in the years thereafter", said said Carlos Ghosn, ACEA's President.

"The level of funding needs to be raised and decision making procedures must be simplified and shortened. This aid is urgently needed to maintain our industry's capacity for innovation and ensure the transition to a low-emission fleet."

The organisation said that automobile production in Europe fell by 20% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and warned that European vehicle production in 2009 is set to decline by at least 15%.

ACEA also urged EU support for suppliers, whose access to credit is 'often even more critical and where many more jobs are at stake'.