The selling rate for cars in Western Europe during August is estimated by J.D.Power-LMC at a stable 14.4 million units per annum. But in terms of national trends, it was another mixed month with one or two surprises.

Although there had been warnings that French car sales would be somewhat sluggish in August as customers wait for the onslaught of new models released after the Paris Motor Show in September, the French market decline was worse than expected. New car sales in France were just 121,889 units, a slump of 17.8% compared to August 2001 and the lowest August figure since 1997.

In contrast, German car sales, estimated by JD Power/LMC at 248,000 vehicles, received a significant stimulus from stepped-up financial incentives. JD Power/LMC said that August saw the strongest seasonally adjusted selling rate of the year in Germany to date, which - in combination with healthy incoming orders - indicates first signs of recovery in the automotive market.

JD Power/LMC also said that there are signs that Italian consumers are responding to recent government incentives, which have been added to by an intense price war at the retail level.  The selling rate in August was the best since January, and the trend towards stronger new orders continued in August, with a 6% increase on a strong result in August 2001.

JD Power/LMC added that the UK continues to be the 'truly buoyant' vehicle market in Europe. Although holidays and the imminent introduction of new registration plates mean that the absolute volumes are relatively low, the seasonally adjusted selling rate in August was close to the spectacular 2.7 million level seen in July.

In the rest of Europe, Belgium and Portugal produced poor results for August, while  Finnish and Scandinavian demand showed a positive trend.