New car sales in Western Europe declined by 2.5% in September according to JD Power. The market analyst estimated that the September market totalled 1.37m units and that year-to-date car sales for Western Europe are virtually flat on last year at 11.4m units.

JD Power said that the annual selling rate in September eased back notably compared with the earlier months of 2006 and that the French market was a 'major disappointment' with sales falling by a worrying 13% in September over last year's level.

The initial estimate for Germany is that sales were up by 3.7% in September - the year-to-date market was up by 1%. The coming months should see a VAT-inspired surge in the German market as consumers bring forward purchases to avoid higher VAT, but there will be a price to pay in January, JD Power said.

In contrast to the situation in France, Spanish sales, while down year on year, were not hugely weaker than earlier in this year (on a seasonally adjusted basis). Furthermore, September 2005 was strong in Spain, JD Power said, but the forecaster maintained that Spanish sales will ease this year and next.

UK sales were a little above expectation in September, hitting a seasonally adjusted annualised selling rate of 2.36m. However, the UK market remains cooler than last year and JD Power expects a full-year 2006 decline of around 4% - with a further easing in sales likely next year.

JD Power is currently forecasting a flat West European car market for 2006 and 2007 - with sales just under 14.7m units.