FRANKFURT -- New car registrations in western Europe dipped for a third consecutive month in September as nervous consumers kept sales weak in four of the top five markets, data released on Wednesday, Oct. 13, showed.
Brussels-based carmakers' group ACEA said registrations slipped 0.6 percent in September, bringing the total number of cars sold in the first nine months to 11.2 million vehicles -- a rise of 1.5 percent.
German luxury carmaker BMW had a stellar month and big American car companies General Motors and Ford also bucked the negative trend while Korean manufacturers continued to make inroads with their affordable offerings.
Registrations for BMW advanced 18.7 percent amid a flood of new models, while Ford gained 5.6 percent and GM added 1.2 percent.
But France's PSA group, Europe's second-biggest carmaker, had a particularly soggy September, seeing registrations drop 8.3 percent and its market share fall more than a full percentage point to 12.6 percent after a weak summer.
Registrations of passenger cars from the Volkswagen group, Europe's biggest automaker that is locked in talks with unions to cut labor costs, retreated 2 percent, led lower by a 3.9 percent drop in VW-brand cars.
Korean carmakers posted bold advances. Kia boosted sales 62.2 percent to 17,950 units in September, giving it a 1.3 percent market share last month and bringing year-to-date growth above 30 percent.
Its parent, Hyundai, also powered ahead, increasing egistrations 29.4 percent for a 2 percent share of the market.
ACEA said September's marginal drop versus a year-ago month with the same number of working days signaled "a flat market situation in an economic context that remains uncertain in a number of countries."
Only Spain, where registrations rose 6.2 percent, was able to boost sales among the five biggest markets. Registrations in Germany -- the biggest market by far on the continent -- fell 3.7 percent, while Britain, France and Italy also declined.
The data include registrations in the 15 legacy EU members plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
The auto industry accounts for some 3 percent of western Europe's economic output and 7.5 percent of its manufacturing base, ACEA says, so healthy car sales help fuel growth.
Registrations also serve as a gauge of consumer confidence in a broader European economy confronting chronic high unemployment and fragile growth.
Grappling with supply bottlenecks, especially for diesel engines, Toyota generated a second consecutive month of gains, up 2.3 percent including sales of its premium Lexus brand.
Fellow Japanese manufacturers Mazda and Honda continued to generate double-digit growth, but Nissan registrations fell by nearly 25 percent.
French carmaker Renault watched its market share slip under 10 percent in September, when sales declined 5.2 percent, bringing its nine-month figure into negative territory.