New car registrations in western Europe slipped for a fourth consecutive month in October as uncertain consumers and calendar quirks pressured sales in most major markets, while Germany's BMW and South Korea's Kia made strong gains, Reuters reported.

Citing daya from Brussels-based carmakers' group ACEA, the news agency said that October registrations fell 3.5% from a year earlier to 1.1 million units, bringing the total number of cars sold in the first 10 months to 12.3 million - a rise of 1.1% compared with the same period of 2003.

Analysts reportedly said the headline numbers looked worse than they really were because October had as many as three fewer selling days in some markets - including Spain - than October 2003.

Despite one less working day, registrations in Germany rose 4.5% thanks to new models and price wars which prompted manufacturers to offer margin-eroding incentives as a way to move merchandise in what is Europe's biggest car market by far, Reuters said.

DaimlerChrysler registrations eked out just a 0.2% gain despite the launch of its popular new A-class compact, the report added.

Reuters said the rare upturn in Germany helped Volkswagen gain market share last month, but PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault numbers slid and Fiat took a beating. Registrations in both France and Italy fell over 8% in October given two fewer shopping days.

Kia doubled its October sales and, supported by the new 1 series compact, BMW registrations advanced 24.5% in October to 63,725 units, giving the manufacturer 5.6% of the market and boosting its 10-month share to 4.7% from 4.3% a year earlier, the report said, noting that BMW registrations in September had risen 18.7% amid the biggest product offensive in its history.

PSA's October registrations fell 11.5% after September's 8.3% drop and its market share contracted more than 1% to 13.7%, Reuters said.

Renault market share slipped under 11% in October, when sales declined 8.2%, keeping its 10-month figure in negative territory, but passenger car registrations for the Volkswagen group rose 2.9%, led by a 6.8% gain in VW-brand cars, the report said.

Kia reportedly boosted sales 103% to just over 15,000 units, extending September's 62.2% gain to 17,950 units and itts year-to-date growth rose to 37%, giving it 1% of the tough and fragmented western European market.

Kia parent Hyundai slowed in October to 4.2% from a 29.4% gain in September but it still took 1.9% of the European market, Reuters said.

Reuters said Toyota, hit by supply bottlenecks, especially for diesel engines, reversed two months of gains and saw its registrations dip 4.4% including its premium Lexus brand. Mazda continued to generate double-digit growth but Nissan registrations dropped 16.6% after falling nearly a quarter in September.

General Motors' registrations fell 9.5% in a month when it faced labour unrest over its plans for sweeping job cuts in Europe, while Ford registrations eased 2%, the Reuters report said.

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