Data released by JD Power Automotive Forecasting showed that the West European car market was up 10% year-on-year in April. April’s 10% gain followed a 10% drop in March, strongly suggesting that both months’ results were heavily distorted by working day variations over last year caused by Easter.

The underlying demand picture remains flat.

West European car sales in April totalled 1.32m units, 10% above last year. In the first four months sales were 5.174m units – just 0.2% above last year’s pace. The seasonally adjusted and annualised rate of sales was 14.62m units in April and estimated at 14.7m in the first four months.

JD Power said the results at national level were mixed but that the ‘more serious consequences of global financial concerns appear not to be weighing very heavily on buyer behaviour at present’.

The German market held on to the steady recovery path in April with the selling rate hitting 3.34m units a year. That compares favourably with the full-year 2007 result of 3.15m units, the worst since the late 1980s.

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The forecaster said that it expects the German market to come back this year, approaching 3.3m units (a 4% increase).

The French market continues to improve slowly and steadily over the 2007 level — the selling rate hit 2.15m units/year in April. JD Power said it expects a 2% increase in 2008.

Italy remains one of the weaker large markets in the region at 2.3m units/year selling rate and JD Power said the Italian market will fall quite sharply in 2008, by as much as 8%.

Demand in Spain continues to be a cause for concern — the selling rate dropped further, to just 1.41m units/year in April.

UK sales returned to a lower level in April after a remarkably strong March result. The 2.35m units/year selling rate in April. JD Power said that there may be further softening in the UK later in the year.

For 2008, JD Power forecasts that the West European car market will turn out at 14.58m units, 1.4% below last year.

See also: GERMANY: European car market outlook mixed – forecaster