FRANKFURT -- New car registrations in western Europe slipped for a fourth consecutive month in October as uncertain consumers and calendar quirks kept sales under pressure in most major markets, data released on Tuesday showed.
Brussels-based carmakers' group ACEA said registrations fell 3.5 percent in October to 1.1 million units, bringing the total number of cars sold in the first 10 months to 12.3 million -- a rise of 1.1 percent versus the same period of 2003.
The numbers were skewed by the fact that October had as many as three fewer selling days in some markets -- including Spain -- than the year-earlier period.
"The drop points to a still hesitant economic situation reinforced by calendar effects," ACEA said.
Despite one less working day, registrations in Germany rose 4.5 percent as price wars prompted manufacturers to offer margin-eroding incentives as a way to move merchandise in what is Europe's biggest car market by far.
German luxury carmaker BMW had another stellar month as its new models continued to fly out of showrooms, while South Korea's Kia remained on a roll, more than doubling its October numbers.
DaimlerChrysler eked out just an 0.2 percent gain despite the launch of its new A-class compact.
The rare upturn in Germany helped Volkswagen gain market share last month, but French manufacturers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault saw their numbers slide and Fiat of Italy took a beating.
Supported by its new 1-series compact, registrations for BMW advanced 24.5 percent in October to 63,725 units, giving the Munich-based carmaker 5.6 percent of the market and boosting its 10-month share to 4.7 percent from 4.3 percent a year earlier.
BMW registrations in September had risen 18.7 percent amid the biggest product offensive in its history.
France's PSA, Europe's second-biggest carmaker, extended its weak showing since summer. October registrations dropped 11.5 percent after September's 8.3 percent retreat and its market share fell more than a full percentage point to 13.7 percent.
Renault did little better, watching its market share slip under 11 percent in October, when sales declined 8.2 percent, keeping its 10-month figure in negative territory.
Registrations of passenger cars from the Volkswagen group rose 2.9 percent, led by a 6.8 percent gain in VW-brand cars.
Korean carmakers continued to build market share by offering fuel-efficient, quality cars at competitive prices. Kia boosted sales a spectacular 103 percent to just over 15,000 units, extending September's 62.2 percent gain to 17,950 units.
Its year-to-date growth rose to 37 percent, giving it 1 percent of the tough and fragmented western European market.
Its parent Hyundai also gained but no longer by double digits, lifting registrations 4.2 percent for a 1.9 percent share of the market.
The ACEA 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 peppy car sales can help rev up economies.
Registrations also serve as a gauge of consumer confidence in a broader European economy now generating only tepid growth.
Bedeviled by supply bottlenecks, especially for diesel engines, Toyota reversed two months of gains and saw registrations dip 4.4 percent including sales of its premium Lexus brand.
Fellow Japanese manufacturer Mazda continued to generate double-digit growth, but Nissan registrations fell 16.6 percent after dropping nearly a quarter in September.
U.S. carmakers posted lackluster results. General Motors' registrations fell 9.5 percent in a month when it faced labor unrest over its plans for sweeping job cuts in Europe, while Ford registrations eased 2 percent.