Economy

EU passenger car registrations up 1.2 percent

PARIS (AP) — The European car market is slowly mounting a rebound, with new car registrations up for the third month in a row.

The European carmakers' association reported Tuesday that EU passenger car sales were up 1.2 percent in November over last year. "Does this mean the crisis is already over and we can start thinking about Christmas?" asked analyst Carlos Da Silva of IHS Automotive. "Not so sure. . Europe is definitely bottoming out but it is certainly still too soon to talk about solid growth."

In absolute terms, the number of cars sold last month is still among the lowest in a decade for a November, and car sales for the year to the end of November are still below the same period last year.

Amid Europe's recession, car registrations fell nearly uninterrupted for about two years until September, when they began to rise again. Growth is now slowly coming back, so the car industry may have hit bottom. But some significant markets are still losing ground. Registrations in France fell 4 percent in November, while they dropped 2 percent in Germany.

The only major market that's growing, in fact, is Britain's, where sales were up 7 percent in November. Sales also got a boost from Spain, which rose 15 percent — but that figure is inflated by a government incentive to scrap old cars and the fact that last year a sales tax increase seriously depressed sales, said Da Silva.

Most carmakers are still slipping, with the exception of a handful of budget brands. Sales at Seat, a Spanish brand that is part of the VW group, for instance, rose 9 percent. Renault's low cost Dacia brand was up 31 percent.

Even luxury brands — which held up well during the crisis — are beginning to suffer. Sales at BMW were down 7.9 percent, while they fell 3.3 percent at Mercedes.

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