German car sales fall for first time in five months

The European recovery in car sales remains volatile.
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FRANKFURT -- Sales of new cars in Germany fell by nearly 4 percent in April, bucking the trend in the other major western European markets of France, Italy and Spain where sales were up.

German passenger car registrations dipped to 274,097 last month, the Department of Motor Vehicles (KBA) said today, the first drop for five months and a sign that a recent recovery in demand remains fragile.

Peter Fuss, German autos expert at Ernst & Young, said there were various factors at play. "One of them is the fact that Easter was in April and not in March. But on the whole it means that the market is still volatile and not as stable as some people would like."

Premium brands Audi, Mercedes and BMW saw registrations fall between 2 and almost 6 percent last month, with market leader Volkswagen recording a sales decline of 5 percent. Nissan, Mazda and Jeep were the top gainers, each seeing sales increases of more than 20 percent, KBA said.

Overall, four-month registrations in Germany were up 3 percent.

Europe's car market has shown signs of recovery from a six-year slump, but excess production capacity and steep discounting continue to distort the true level of demand.

French sales rose 6 percent to 166,968 in April, while in Italy registrations were up 2 percent to 119,099 vehicles.

Sales in Spain increased 29 percent to 80,174, helped by a government subsidy scheme that gives buyers of new vehicles a rebate for turning in old cars.

Reuters contributed to this report

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