BRUSSELS -- Sales of new cars in western Europe were down 3.5 percent in February compared with the same month last year, figures released on Thursday showed.
The decline was less than the seven percent drop in January, but still meant an overall fall of 5.3 percent for the first two months of the year compared with 2002, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said.
In total 1,016,454 new cars were registered in western Europe, compared with 1,053,541 in February 2002.
Most of the major European brands were affected, but Fiat took the biggest hit in percentage terms with a fall of 12.7 percent in February, meaning a drop in market share of almost one point to 8.9 percent, from 9.8 in February last year.
The Italian carmaker's shares dropped to 18-year lows on Wednesday on concerns about a looming recapitalization and a lack of progress in talks with stakeholder General Motors.
Sales of Japanese brands rose 6.2 percent in February year-on-year and Korean car sales were up 10.8 percent taking the market share for vehicles from these countries up to 11.6 percent and 3.3 percent respectively.
Only four European Union countries escaped the downward trend: Austria, Sweden, Finland and the important Italian market whose sales were up 8.1 percent due to the reintroduction of an incentive scheme to get rid of old cars, according to ACEA.
Of the bigger national markets, Britain suffered the worst decline, with sales down 5.8 percent in February for a fall of 8.1 percent for the first two months of the year.