Brussels, Belgium – European new passenger car registration fell by 7.8 per cent in 2008, the sharpest decline since 1993, according to figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. Total registrations were 14,712,158 units.

New-car demand dropped by 8.4 per cent in Western Europe, with the downturn most prominent in the last quarter, which was down 19.3 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2007. Registrations in the new EU Member States slipped by 0.7 per cent, worsening in the end of the year.

In Western Europe, only four countries posted growth: Finland, up 11.2 per cent; Portugal, up 5.7 per cent; Belgium, up 2.1 per cent; and Switzerland, up 1.0 per cent. While fiscal measures helped sustain growth in Finland and Portugal, the Belgian and Swiss sales levels seemed to have better resisted the financial and economic crises prevailing throughout Europe.

Iceland and Ireland were among the countries recording the sharpest downturns, at 43.3 and 18.7 per cent respectively. Among major markets, Spain had the steepest fall in the history of its market, at 28.1 per cent. Italy fell by 13.4 per cent, with no month recording a plus. The U.K. decreased by 11.3 per cent, while Germany was down 1.8 per cent, and France down 0.7 per cent. December hit most markets the hardest, with Ireland down 61.9 per cent, Spain down 49.9 per cent, the U.K. down 21.2 per cent, France down 15.8 per cent, Italy down 13.3 per cent, and Germany down 6.6 per cent for the month, compared with December 2007.

In the new EU Member states, Poland remained the major market, with an increase of 9.4 per cent throughout 2008. The Czech Republic also recorded a plus, at 8.4 per cent increase, but Romania was down 8.7 per cent, and Hungary was down 9.2 per cent. In December, the region was down 10.7 per cent compared with December 2007, the sharpest drop since the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association started reporting figures for the new EU Member States in 2004.

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