Western European car sales inched up 1.8% to 1.38 million in the third quarter of 2005, prompting forecaster CSM Worldwide to reiterate its target of 16.48 million units for the year.

September is historically the most important month of the 3rd quarter in Europe, when 9.5% of total-year volume is sold. Nine-month accumulated sales across the region reached 11.24 million units, fractionally up 0.5% year on year.

The Western European SAAR – seasonally adjusted annualised selling rate – suggests full-year passenger car sales of 14.65 million units, a slight increase over last year’s results, which were largely inflated by last-minute registration rushes in November and December.

September sales growth was fuelled by Germany, Spain, Italy and France but demand continued to fall in the United Kingdom.

Demand in Germany has picked up since April, posting six consecutive months of growth, as September sales increased 3.5% and year-to-date sales rose 3.3% over last year. The positive momentum was expected to continue following the Frankfurt motor show and its launch of many new models. CSM projects a full-year selling rate of 3.34 million units, up 2.6% over 2004.

Sales in Spain continued to surge – unlike Spanish domestic car output, increasing 2.5% year on year. The market has been strong since 2Q 2003, and high demand continues to suggest another record year of sales. The full-year sales target is 1.59 million units, up 2.4%.

To sustain sales growth, the government announced it would extend its PREVER incentive scheme until the end of 2006. A deduction in registration tax is applied to the purchase of a new vehicle when an old vehicle aged over 10 years (cars) and seven years (commercial vehicles) is scrapped simultaneously.

Demand in France has grown for three consecutive quarters as September sales increased 7.4% and year-to-date sales rose 4.7%. The full-year selling rate predicts a market of about 2.14 million units, up 4.6%.

Italy has reported a slight rise in demand following a disastrous start to the year. Yet year-to-date sales are off 2.3% and the full-year selling rate suggests 2.32 million units, confirming a full year down 3.2%.

In the United Kingdom, car sales have experienced the opposite cyclical trend in comparison to the region’s larger markets. Sales have clearly slowed since 2Q 2004, posting negative growth over five consecutive quarters following four years of consecutive growth. Car sales fell 3.2% in September, one of the highest selling months due to the change of registration plates. The full-year selling rate suggests a market of 2.51 million units, down 5.5%.