Jaguar, close to being sold by Ford to India's Tata Motors, saw its European sales plummet in January, according to new registration figures from the European car association ACEA.

Stablemate Land Rover, the other member of Ford's Premier Automotive Group being sold off, also struggled, seeing a decline of almost six per cent.

However, yesterday's figures were not all bad for the Midlands car industry - BMW's Mini maintained its popularity with sales rising more than 34 per cent last month compared with January last year.

Across Europe, new passenger-car registrations slipped 0.3 per cent in January, robust sales in emerging markets to the east helping to offset stagnant sales in the west. The result is a likely indicator of the trend for the year. Europe's major carmakers expect a flat market in their home markets due to weaker consumer confidence in a slower economy.

In the UK, new registrations totalled 162,097 last month, down 2.1 per cent on the same month last year. This is comparable to France, where 162,116 cars were registered in January - decline of 5.6 per cent.

The ACEA figures show that 1,695 new Jaguars were registered in Europe last month, down from 2,739 in January last year - a drop of 38.1 per cent. Rival comparisons show Lexus down 25.4 per cent during the same

period, with Audi off 5.7 per cent. However, BMW fared better, up 9.1 per cent and Mercedes was also positive with a 4.3 per cent increase.

Land Rover managed 7,719 vehicles registered, compared with 8,188 last year - a decline of 5.7 per cent. Parent Ford showed an overall decline of 3.5 per cent. Best performers included Smart, up 50.9 per cent, and Nissan, which increased by 50.1 per cent.

The figures are thought to reflect the view amongst western European manufacturers that the European market will continue to decline this year. Peugeot Citroen, along with Renault, have both said they expected Europe to be weak, describing the business environment as challenging. Similarly, Daimler said growth would come from emerging markets like China, India, Russia and elsewhere.

Registrations for the 27 member states of the European Union (EU27) and EFTA countries totalled 1,308,761 units in January, according to the ACEA figures. Those for western Europe - 15 EU member countries and EFTA countries - fell 1.7 per cent. Excluding EFTA, the total fell 1.6 per cent.

In sharp contrast, registrations in new member states jumped 20.1 per cent.

"For the fourth month in a row their registrations went up by more than ten per cent," ACEA said in a statement. "In absolute figures, the four leading markets clearly are Romania, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic."

In Poland, registrations rose by 24.6 per cent. Of the five major markets in western Europe, only Germany - with a 10.5 per cent gain - had more registrations than last year, recording the second-highest sales volume in the last five years. The rise in Germany came after a very slow January in 2007 when a tax increase hit sales. France, Italy and Spain also declined, with Sweden seeing the worst EU15 decline at 17.3 per cent.

"This may be due to the global credit crunch, impacting spending and confidence," ACEA said.

Among the biggest car makers by market share, the Volkswagen group fared best, with sales rising a meagre 0.6 per cent, while GM did the worst, falling 8.1 per cent. n Renault said worldwide sales of its cars and light utility vehicles rose 2.5 per cent in January from a year earlier, to 194,404 vehicles.