A smaller fall in German car sales in September has strengthened hopes that weakness in Europe’s largest car market is easing and sales could stabilise or improve this year.

New car registrations slowed 1.2% to 247,199 last month, the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) told Reuters, following a drop of 5% in August.

Gains in French and Spanish car sales last month have raised hopes the worst may be over for a western European market enduring its weakest year in two decades and an industry official said Germany would also improve.

“Given that, I expect that the stabilisation could continue in the fourth quarter,” he said.

The German year to date decline was 6% to 2.22m cars, after the September data, which also reflected one working day fewer than in September 2012.

Sales of VW and BMW models declined by no more than 2.2% and 3.9% respectively whereas Ford and Mercedes posted small gains of 1.2% and 0.9%, KBA said.

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Full year German sales may ease to between 2.9-3.0m cars this year from 3.08m in 2012, and keep hovering at around 3m vehicles in coming years, main industry association VDA has said, Reuters noted.