The West European new car market (EU-15) was weak in April, in spite of figures from the European carmakers' trade association which showed a 1.3% gain on the same month last year.

New car sales in the EU-15 area (excludes new members) reached 1,253,432 units, 1.3% ahead of the same month last year. In the cumulative four months to date this year, sales were 4,986,598 units, 1.4% down on last year.

Analysts said that the total failed to continue the momentum from a strong March and reinforced fears that weak consumer confidence would lead to slow sales in Europe over the rest of 2005, adding to pressures on the carmakers' margins.

The market gain mainly reflected the impact of an extra working day over the same month last year, although the French market was 12.2% higher than the same month last year (194,720 units).

"These figures reflect the slowdown of the European economy observed since the beginning of the year," ACEA said in a statement.

At the manufacturer level, market leader Volkswagen was boosted by strong sales under its Audi and Skoda brands.

The US Big Two produced contrasting April results in Europe. GM turned in a good month in April (+7%) but Ford had a poor month (-7%).

See the full ACEA detail here.