France's Renault SA once again lost out as European car sales slowed in April with gains in faster-growing eastern Europe failing to outweigh a slump in major car-buying nations Germany, France and Spain.
Manufacturers' association ACEA said Wednesday that overall sales were down 0.6 percent from a year ago, with 1,291,634 new cars leaving showrooms.
But sales in Germany, the EU's largest economy, fell 7 percent after a recent shopping spree slowed followed a January sales tax hike. France was also down 5 percent and Spain slowed 6 percent. This dragged the entire region despite a car-buying boom in the smaller EU economies of eastern Europe and better sales in Britain and Italy.
Among major carmakers, the biggest loser was Renault, down 10.5 percent with the company losing market share to other brands as it fails to turn around shrinking sales.
U.S.-based General Motors Corp. was down 4.7 percent on lower Opel sales. Europe's largest manufacturer, Volkswagen AG, saw sales slip only 0.2 percent.
Germany's luxury carmakers saw mixed results with DaimlerChrysler AG down 4.6 percent while BMW Group AG climbed 2.6 percent as it executed a neat reverse turn on Mini sales, up nearly a quarter despite continuing poor sales for Daimler's similar compact urban Smart car.
Italy's Fiat SpA continued its surge, up 8 percent as Italians became the second largest car market for the month with sales increasing 9.6 percent. France's Peugeot Citroen was also up slightly by 1.5 percent.
Japanese carmaker Toyota did well, up 1.8 percent even though its luxury Lexus suffered a slight drop.
The ACEA's sales figures count new car registrations from 23 EU nations - excluding the island nations of Cyprus and Malta - as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969