FRANKFURT -- New car registrations in Germany, Europe's biggest market, climbed six percent in May to 300,000 vehicles, trimming the fall in the year to date to one percent, automobile industry association VDA said on Tuesday.
VDA said in a statement that demand was boosted by improved consumer confidence following the end of the Iraq war and greater willingness on the part of firms to expand their fleets after the government dropped plans to increase company car tax.
Registrations rose year-on-year for the first time in 2003, taking the cumulative January-May total to 1,374,200 vehicles, down one percent on the same period last year.
VDA, which tends to be more optimistic than individual manufacturers, said the data provided a "glimmer of hope" for the German auto market.
"The more positive underlying sentiment was also reflected in domestic orders, even if the effect of forthcoming price increases helped fill the books," it said, noting that May orders for new cars were up six percent over last year.
VDA stood by its forecast of stronger demand in the second half of 2003 last month. It is expecting some 3.25 million new car registrations for 2003, broadly unchanged from last year.
Monthly production climbed nine percent to 437,300 vehicles and exports rose three percent to 288,500, VDA said.
DaimlerChrysler last week posted a one percent decline in May sales of its luxury Mercedes-Benz cars, reporting weak demand in Germany, while rival BMW said group unit sales in the month were roughly stable.
Registrations of foreign brands rose by seven percent in May to 98,000 cars. For January-May, foreign brand registrations are up two percent at 476,900.