Following a tough year for the European car market, there are signs of optimism going into 2011 according to the latest analysis from automotive intelligence provider, JATO Dynamics. 

Sales in Europe’s big five markets of Great Britain, Germany, Spain, France and Italy all showed negative growth for November, however sales in eastern Europe remained strong and continue to recover.

New car sales across Europe were down 4.8% on 2009 levels, but despite this the UK and Spain look likely to end the year positively with sales up 3.4% and 5.9% respectively for the year to date. 

November sales for six of the top 10 brands in Europe were down compared to the same period last year. German premium brands continued to perform well, with BMW, Mercedes and Audi up 17.9%, 5.6%, and 3.1% respectively. Volkswagen retained the status of Europe’s best-selling brand for November, helped by sales of the new Polo, which grew 11% compared to 2009. 

Crossover and 4X4 vehicles held up strongly last month. Sales of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Land Rover Freelander were up 9.8% and 9.3% respectively while in the 4x4 range the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Outlander were up 38.3% and 43.1%. 

While Germany experienced the smallest drop in sales compared to last year, down only 6.2% compared to Spain’s 25.5%, sales over the year to date in Germany remain the least optimistic of all the Big Five markets, down 25.2%. This almost equates to the same number of vehicles registered in Spain year to date alone.  

Despite overall sales volumes being down 4.8% year to date, there is some optimism emerging with 20 of the 27 markets showing positive growth for the year to date. JATO said that the positive figures, however, are likely to have been impacted by scrappage schemes, which in many markets ended in the first quarter of the year.

Central and eastern Europe continued to record strong sales growth in November compared to the same period last year. Sales in Lithuania were up 70% in November with Estonia and Slovakia up 42.5% and 35.5% respectively.

JATO added that as volumes in these countries continue to rise, they will become increasingly important to market recovery as a whole.

Of the top 10 brands, BMW showed the biggest increase in sales for the month, up 17.9% compared to the same time last year while Fiat saw the largest decrease, down 27.7%. Volkswagen retained its place as Europe’s best selling brand with 117,852 sales units in November.

General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall improved its sales performance to break into positive growth, up 3.8% for November against the same month last year, this compared with a decrease of 19.9% the previous month.