FRANKFURT -- Sliding auto sales in Western Europe last month compounded the woes of the region's carmakers, already hit by unfavorable exchange rates and struggling to lift profits this year as their Asian rivals gain ground.
Brussels-based automakers association ACEA said on Thursday car registrations in western Europe fell 6.5 percent in April from a year ago, bringing sales for the first four months of the year to 5.02 million, down 3.4 percent on the year.
All European carmakers had lower sales, while Japanese and Korean competitors gained. Among the hardest hit European firms were Italy's Fiat and Volkswagen, whose market shares dropped 13 and 11 percent respectively, though VW is still market leader with 18 percent.
By contrast Japan's Mazda and Korea's Kia were the biggest gainers with sales jumping nearly 57 percent and 70 percent respectively, though Toyota is still the biggest Japanese player with a 4.6 percent share. Kia's gains were from a low base as it took 0.9 percent of the market -- the same as Britain's MG Rover.
The ACEA data caps a weak earnings season for European carmakers, many of whom expect no profit growth this year, though the association said some special factors exaggerated the market's weakness.