LONDON - European passenger-car sales continued to grow in December 1997.
Early estimates put the market up by 9 percent overall.
Sales for the full year are expected to reach 13.4 million cars, 4.5 percent more than 1996, in the 17 countries in western Europe.
Italy was up by about 22 percent in December, compared with the same month in 1996. But the rate of growth has declined as the effects of government incentives ease. Sales in November rose 44 percent.
Sales in the UK rose 5 to 6 percent in the first 17 days of December. But both Ford and Rover were expected to make year-end pushes.
German sales were flat, partly because of supply problems. Volkswagen cannot deliver enough Golfs, and the Mercedes-Benz A-class is unavailable.
Up to 250,000 sales have been delayed until 1998 because of inadequate supplies, according to industry observers.
French sales continued to be disappointing. Sales barely rose over the low level of December 1996. PSA cut prices of the Citroen Saxo and Peugeot 106 to stimulate demand.
Spain continued the steady growth of previous months with an estimated 10.5 percent rise on December 1996.
Among smaller markets, Ireland was very strong. Sweden and Switzerland were also up.