LONDON - New-car registrations in western Europe rose 4.8 percent in May to 1,205,400. A 9.3 percent rise in Germany accounted for half of the increase.
Spain and France had significant gains, and Italy suffered its first decline after 16 months of incentive-inspired growth.
Continuing scrapping incentives contributed to Spain's 14.8 percent increase in registrations to 101,000 units. The Spanish market is up 55,000 units in the first five months, compared with 1997. France was up 10.5 percent against last year's depressed market.
Denmark was the only other country with a decline in sales. A year ago, a pending tax increase caused a bulge in sales in Denmark. This year's 60.5 percent decline represented a loss of 18,000 registrations against a year ago.
Sales at Rolls-Royce, the luxury carmaker just purchased by Volkswagen, were well behind a year ago, due to a model changeover this spring. However, production of the new Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage have ramped up to 58 cars a week, according to chief executive Graham Morris. Sales at that pace would represent a 40 percent increase over 1997.
'Demand has been very high,' said spokeswoman Janette Green, but the distribution pipeline is not yet full, and some dealers don't yet have cars.