New car sales in Germany fell by 8.6% to 192,090 in January, a rate of decline that is less than in France, Spain and Italy. 

But the fall came despite heavy discounting by carmakers, said the University of Duisburg-Essen’s Centre of Automotive Research which reported that incentives were at their highest level since the centre started monitoring them seven years ago.

Despite the disappointing start to the year – sales in January 2012 were more than 210,000 – the VDIK importers’ association predicts demand will pick up in the coming months.

"Despite the weak start to the year, we believe a full-year volume of more than 3m vehicles is still possible," VDIK president Volker Lange said. Last year’s new car markets was 3.17m, a fall of 2.9% over 2011.