A gain in Europe's largest new-vehicle market couldn't overcome continued massive losses elsewhere last month. European new-vehicle sales plunged 18.3 percent in February to 968,159 units.
Aided by new government subsidies for scrapping older cars, German new-car sales jumped 21.5 percent in February to 277,740. Besides Germany, only Poland and tiny Luxembourg increased sales. Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Spain — the rest of Europe's five largest markets — posted double-digit losses.
Among brands, the only sales increases in February came from Suzuki and Smart, both up 0.6 percent; Alfa Romeo, up 23.3 percent; Hyundai, up 20.2 percent; and Jaguar, up 12.3 percent.
From No. 6 in 2008, Italy's Fiat Group moved to No. 4 among European automakers, leapfrogging General Motors and Renault SA. Fiat sales fell 21.2 percent in the first two months to 171,239, almost as bad as the industry's 22.6 percent decline. But GM's fell 29.1 percent to 166,722, and Renault dropped 28.5 percent to 156,425.
Two other mass-market auto groups gained market share in February despite declining volume, because they weren't as bad as the rest of the industry. Volkswagen AG fell 10.2 percent to 210,337 units but increased its European market share to 21.7 percent from 19.8 percent a year earlier. Ford Motor Co. sales dropped 12.7 percent to 95,164 units, but its market share rose 0.6 points to 9.8 percent.
Daimler AG was the biggest loser among Europe's 10 largest automakers, down 29.8 percent overall. BMW Group fell almost as much, off 29.2 percent to 40,928 on weak results for both the BMW and Mini brands.