High petrol prices and interest rates were behind a 2.2 percent drop in European new car registrations in 2000 compared with the previous year, the car makers’ association Acea said on Tuesday.

ACEA’s latest figures showed 14.74 million new cars were registered in Western Europe in 2000, down from the record high of 15.07 million in 1999.

“Even if 2000 registered a decrease, this is still a good result considering that the comparison is made with 1999, which was a record year,” ACEA, The European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said in a statement.

“2000 is the second best year the industry has ever had,” it added.

ACEA said fuel and interest rate increases had “created uncertainties in the consumer mind” in most European Union countries.

Some country-specific factors had also hit sales, ACEA said. In Germany a temporary oversupply of used cars had pressured the new car market, for example. New car registrations in Germany were down 11 percent in 2000 to 3.38 million.

Changes to the registration system in France and particular price pressure in Britain had also weighed, ACEA said.

The manufacturers hardest hit were Ford, whose sales dropped 9.8 percent to 1.589 million, and General Motors, down 8.2 percent to 1.595 million.

PSA Peugeot-Citroen survived the general decline, with new registrations up 5.8 percent to 1.93 million, increasing the French firm’s market share by one percentage point to 13.1 percent.

British marque MG Rover, which was sold by Germany’s BMW to a private consortium in May for a nominal 10 pounds ($US15), saw sales drop 13.3 percent to 200,000. BMW’s sales rose 2.7 percent to 498,000.