After a poor January, the European car market bounced back in February according to figures released by the European carmakers’ trade association, Acea. New passenger car registrations in Europe (EU15+EFTA) reached 1,033,312 units in the month, some 2% ahead of the same month last year.

In the first two months of the year, new car sales in the region totalled 2.2 million units, a virtual dead heat on the same period of last year.

ACEA said in a statement that February’s growth compensates for January’s decrease, but the body noted that national figures for February again showed a contrasting picture with signs of recovery in some markets and sluggish demand in others. Among the five main markets compared with the same month last year, Spain (+22.5%) and the UK (+3.8%) continued to show a positive trend, while Italy (-2.2%), France (-2.7%) and Germany (-2.8%) posted decreases.

ACEA also reported sales figures for a number of EU upcoming membership countries. Poland’s car market was up 5% in February at 26,715 units and Hungary was also up 5% at 16,625 units. However, the Czech Republic showed a 5% drop at 10,237 units.

Manufacturer detail once again showed the Japanese makers continuing to gain share in Europe’s car market. Japanese makes recorded west European sales of 137,237 units in February, 17.4% ahead of the same month last year and representing a market share of 13.3% (versus 11.5% in February last year). There were big gains in the month for Toyota and Lexus combined (+20.3% against last February), Mazda (+46.5%) and Honda (+34.7%).

The Korean carmakers also enjoyed a good February with all Korean makes up 22.2% on last year to 41,414 units (Hyundai +16.8%, KIA +28.8%, Daewoo +27.7%)

Fiat continued its recently improving trend in February in spite of the weakness of the Italian market – Fiat Auto group sales were up 4.9% to 92,827 units. Renault also had a relatively good month, posting an increase of 2.9% in February to 116,349 units.

Market leader Volkswagen Group saw its share decline to 17.3% in February (17.8% in February last year) on the back of weak sales under its Seat and Skoda brands (Volkswagen brand sales were almost flat over last year).

After a strong January that saw Ford emerge as the single largest brand in the European market, February’s results were disappointing for Ford. Ford brand sales were off 5.9% on last year at 85,067 units. However, the Ford Group overall was buoyed by strong February sales for Land Rover (+10.6% over Feb last year), Volvo (+6.4%) and Jaguar (+47.5%). Ford Group sales reached 107,839 units in February, some 2.8% down on the same month last year.

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