BMW has added its voice to those noting pan-European increases in sales tax will almost inevitably have an impact on new vehicle purchases.

Speaking to delegates at today’s (23 June) Automotive News Europe Congress in Bilbao, Spain, BMW sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson cautioned tax increases would change purchasing behaviour.

UK finance minister George Osborne on Tuesday unveiled plans to hike VAT or sales tax from 17.5% to 20% at the beginning of next year – with the increase following swiftly on the heels of a recent rise from a temporary, economy-spurring 15%.

“Yesterday’s speech by the chancellor will have some effects as VAT will increase to 20%, which means in essence some cars sold in 2011 will come into 2010,” said Robertson.

“Spain has had a strong recovery albeit from a difficult 2009, but there are changes to VAT in July so we are seeing additional sales which we might not see in the second half.”

Despite painting a generally upbeat view of improved European sales, Robertson nonetheless admitted his overall assessment of the continent was “a mixed picture” particularly as different governments adopted individual taxation positions.

“A lot depends on what the governments do with austerity measures that may or may not start to deflect some consumer behaviour,” he said.

Germany had enjoyed a massive boost from its scrappage scheme and, although Robertson said BMW was not particularly affected as the incentives were mainly targeted at the volume sector, the market was nonetheless predicted to take a 25% hit this year after the incentive ended.

The UK has also “defied some of the original forecasts” but, although there was room for tentative optimism, Robertson added a note of caution to those highlighting the fledgling return to growth.

“We can all be encouraged by what is happening market by market [but] it is by no means a full recovery,” he said.