German car registrations plummeted 4.2% last month following the withdrawal of the government's automotive subsidy last September.

New registrations collated by licenced plates organisation KBA totalled 181,000 - the worst sales performance since German reunification in 1990 and hard on the heels of an already weak January last year.

The German market had benefited from an extremely generous EUR5bn (US$6.9bn) 'eco-rebate' which allowed buyers with nine-year old vehicles to trade in their models for either new or used cars up to 14 months old with a maximum subsidy of EUR2,500.

"The increase in the German 2009 figures was around 1m [but] we are coming back to these small registration numbers in 2007/2008," a VDIK (Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers) told just-auto.

"There is no thinking from the government to do this rebate again - it was an economic package to help the automotive [industry] in general to overcome the crisis - it was very effective."

VDIK added the subsidy also provided a major boost to the German supplier industry that employs some 330,000 people.

"Industry figures in volume are [predicted] at 2.8m/2.9m this year, which is slightly better than 2008, but very slightly," added the VDIK spokesman.

"It depends on the economic situation in Germany - now they hope the commercial buyers such as fleet will purchase again. Fleet buyers dropped last year to one third compared to [the] normal 50%.

News of the sharp fall in new German registrations contrasted starkly with data from the Comite des Constructeurs Francais d'Automobiles (CCFA) yesterday (3 February), that showed French car plate orders rising 14% last month to 171,000.