December new car sales in Western Europe were down by 4.3% on the previous year, but that result was heavily distorted by a strong December 2002 result in Italy. According to analysts LMC-JD Power, if Italy is excluded December's result would have been 3% higher than a year earlier. For the year as a whole new car sales in Western Europe turned out to be 1.7% below 2002's level. That result is better than many would have expected at the beginning of the year and confirms a gathering second half recovery after weakness in the early part of the year.