New car sales in Europe were down 9.5% year-on-year in March as economic uncertainty hit sales in the region's biggest markets, the ACEA European automakers' association has reported. ACEA said there was also an adverse impact on sales from fewer working days in the month compared with last year.

Registrations of new passenger cars in Europe -- comprising the EU members except Cyprus and Malta, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland -- totalled 1,654,214 in March.

"In a context of economic uncertainty generated by the US financial crisis, car sales in western Europe were affected most by the decline," ACEA said in a statement.

It also said that the early celebration of Easter had a negative impact on sales.

Market leader Volkswagen Group saw its sales drop 12.5% in March while the second biggest automaker, the PSA group, saw its sales fall 13.9%.

Overall first quarter car sales in Europe reached 4.15m units - 1.7% below the same period last year.