FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Greece suffered the sharpest drop in new-car registrations of any western European car market in June, falling 22 percent amid political uncertainty in the run-up to the country's bailout referendum.
Official figures for Greece will not be provided until Friday, but data from consultancy LMC Automotive showed that sales fell to 6,247 new vehicles in June.
By contrast, registrations in western Europe rose 14 percent to 1.31 million as the UK, Germany, France and Spain delivered double-digit percentage gains. Almost all major markets performed well, helped by extra selling days.
"Despite growing concerns over Greece's future in the euro zone and the implications for the currency union, the car market in western Europe grew strongly in June and in the first half of the year," LMC Automotive analyst Emiliano Lewis said. "While uncertainty created by the Greek crisis clouds the picture for the coming months, after a strong start we still expect 2015 to be up comfortably on last year," he said.
Fleet renewals by car rental companies had caused Greek auto registrations to jump 43 percent in April, but that masked the longer-term downward trend.
Registrations in Greece fell 74 percent last year, following a 78 percent decline in 2013, the Greek Association of Motor Vehicle Importers Representatives said, adding that demand between January and May had fallen by about 70 percent.
The only other European markets to post declines in June were Ireland, which fell 14 percent, and Finland, which dropped 2.5 percent, LMC said.
SAAR at 13.2M
For western Europe as a whole, however, sales continued to rise, with June's 1.31 million new registrations lifting the seasonally adjusted annual sales forecast to 13.22 million, up from May's forecast of 12.51 million.
Six-month sales were up 8 percent, according to the LMC data, which is compiled from published registration figures and projections for some smaller markets.
The UK's June sales rose 13 percent to 257,817 vehicles, helping to post the country's strongest half-year performance on record. Through June, sales were up 7 percent, though industry association SMMT expects slower growth for the remainder of the year.
June sales in Germany, Europe's largest auto market, rose 13 percent to 313,600 cars, extending the year-to-date advance to 5 percent, or 1.62 million autos.