August sales of new vehicles in Europe fell 28.8 percent from the same month last year, according to estimates by Automotive News Europe. A sharp drop in the United Kingdom caused the decline.
United Kingdom sales fell 85.3 percent to 74,444. Before this year, August sales were inflated because annual license-plate designations changed. Now they change in March and September.
The registration plate indicates the age of the car and affects resale value or trade-in value. A car purchased the month before the plate is issued becomes, in effect, a year old a month later.
Carmakers in the United Kingdom said they were not concerned about the August drop. For the first eight months of the year, new-car registrations in the United Kingdom were down 14.7 percent. The industry expects a strong September because of the new license plate rules.
Industry sources say sales in Germany slowed because of summer price increases at Volkswagen and Opel. New-car registrations were up slightly, but orders were weak.
French car sales jumped 24.7 percent in August, sustaining July's strong performance. Peugeot led the growth with a year-to-year gain of 50.6 percent.
Italian sales lost momentum in August because of the changeover to a new Fiat Punto. Higher prices and limited availability of the new car during the next few months may hold back overall Italian sales, an industry economist said.
The Spanish market remains strong because of the health of the country's economy.