Light-vehicle sales in Europe were plain awful last year, much as they were in the United States.
December marked the eighth straight month in which sales were down year-on-year. For all of 2008, sales in 28 European markets fell by 1.2 million units to 14.7 million. That's a loss of 7.8 percent, which is better than the disastrous 2008 U.S. plunge of 18 percent to 13.2 million units.
Europe's 2008 sales declined in every month except February and April.
But the rate of decline accelerated toward the year end. Volume dropped 1.7 percent in the first quarter and 2.6 percent in the second. The third quarter was off 9.9 percent, and the final quarter plummeted 19.0 percent.
Sales fell 17.8 percent in December, the worst performance of the year except for a 25.8 percent drop in November.
Two of the biggest losers in Europe last year were the world's largest auto groups, Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors. Toyota declined 12.4 percent to 814,581 units and fell behind BMW group to become the No. 8 auto group in Europe.
GM fell to No. 4 in Europe, slipping 13.9 percent to finish at 1.4 million sales. Ford Motor Co. lost 5.2 percent but moved to No. 3 with 1.5 million units.
Other companies with big sales losses for the year included Honda, off 15.7 percent to 264,238 units; Mitsubishi, down 16.1 percent to 119,956; and Chrysler LLC, down 22.5 percent to 93,315.
Only two auto groups increased volume in Europe last year: Nissan gained 8.8 percent to 337,913 sales, and Mazda rose 2.1 percent to 245,062. Both brands moved up the sales ladder. Nissan replaced Honda as No. 10. Mazda passed Kia to become No. 14.
Among the top six groups, No. 1 Volkswagen AG was the best performer. It lost 4.4 percent or more than 140,000 sales but outperformed the market and boosted its market share 0.7 points to 20.6 percent.
Europe's sales pain was widespread. The five largest markets — Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France and Spain — each fell last year. Spain's 28.1 percent plunge to 1.2 million was the country's worst one-year loss.
In 2007, booming sales in central Europe overcame a modest decline in western Europe and pushed total European sales up marginally. But this year, central Europe itself was off 0.7 percent, at 1.2 million units.