Spanish car sales rebounded strongly in March, helped by continuing government subsidies.

Car registrations increased 63% to reach 124,756 units, while first quarter sales rose 44.5% to 286,167.

Consumers have benefited from the Plan2000E grants whereby the state offers EUR500 (US$669) per car sale, the regions a further EUR500 and manufacturers EUR1,000, totalling EUR2,000 per vehicle.

The scheme has been particularly welcomed by the auto industry, which claims it is also helping slash CO2 emissions by encouraging the retirement of older vehicles.

Spanish car association ANFAC is calling for an extension of the scheme beyond its planned expiry in June to the rest of the year – which, it says, would result in a further 90,000 car sales.

Spain has been battered specially badly by the global recession with full year vehicle sales expected to be in the region of 950,000 units, down from 955,000 last year.

Sales in 2009 were down 18%.