New car sales in Europe fell for the second month running in November as four out of the five main markets went into reverse.
Latest monthly figures from Acea, the Brussels-based European industry group, showed that not even price discounts and new models have been enough to tempt hard-pressed consumers into the showrooms.
Registrations in the 23 Europe Union countries plus the EFTA countries of Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, fell by 2.8 per cent to 1.168 million units from 1.202 million in the same month last year.
Numbers for the first 11 months of the year were 0.5 percent down at 14.147 million.
Weakening markets in Britain, Spain, Germany and France eclipsed an upturn in Italy and ensured overall car sales extended October's drop of 2.6 per cent amid consumer reluctance to splash out on cars. New car registrations in 23 European Union countries plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland fell to 1.17 million units.
"These results seem to confirm a stagnation of the market," Acea said.
In Germany, Europe's biggest car market, unemployment remains stuck at the highest level for decades and an increase in sales tax has dampened demand even further.
In Britain, the economy is heading for the slowest annual growth rate for more than ten years and consumers are also retrenching.
Harald Hendrikse, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, said: "The second half has been a bit tougher than people had hoped."
But he believed that European car sales should pick up over the next six months as a result of resurgent investor confidence in Germany and an export-led expansion of the economy. Among European manufacturers, Renault suffered one of the biggest sales slumps in November, down by 15.3 per cent at 113,608, while market leader VW (with 20.3 per cent) was 0.5 per cent down at 237,680.
November was another good month for Land Rover which is doing well with its new Discovery and Range Rover Sport models.
Sales rose by 24.6 per cent to 6,130, yielding a year to date rise of 9.4 per cent at 72,493.
Jaguar's policy of pursuing sales of its more profitable, higher margin vehicles at the expense of volume, resulted in a 12.7 per cent fall to 3,085 in November and a year to date decline 23.1 per cent at 43,045.
Peugeot, which makes the popular 206 at Ryton, saw its sales fall by 4.9 per cent (to 85,472) for the month and by 5.8 per cent (1,054 million) for the year.
BMW's Oxford-built Mini marque dipped by 7.9 per cent (9,176) in November but was 3.9 per cent ahead (121,280) on the year.
Toyota, which produces the Corolla and Avensis for the European market at Burnaston, Derbyshire, was five per cent ahead last month at 62,494 (including its Lexus luxury brand) and was 2.9 per cent up on the year at 757,122.
Asian manufacturers generally made further inroads into Europe, with South Korea's Kia Motors up by 18.3 per cent in November and by almost 50 per cent in the year to date.
Suzuki advanced 18.7 per cent, and Honda - which builds the Civic at Swindon - gained five per cent.
Nissan, however, saw its sales fall by nearly 30 per cent due to weak conditions in Britain. ..SUPL: