April car sales across Europe were stronger than most manufacturers expected.
After a weak March, industry sources say Germany recorded a 19.3 percent rise compared with April 1998.
A healthy order intake suggests that current levels will be sustained over the next few months.
However, accurate comparisons in Germany are difficult because sales were suppressed in April 1998 by an increase in VAT at the end of the first quarter.
Strong economies in France and Spain are supporting sales increases. France's momentum, which began in mid-1998, shows no sign of ending.
The Italian market continues to be supported by big incentives from Fiat.
Sales in the UK have been helped by aggressive pricing. Sales were also strong in Portugal and the Netherlands.
With a third of the year over, analysts are predicting a flat European market or a fall of between 1 and 2 percent for the whole of 1999.
Most forecasters predicted a decline of between 2 and 3 percent at the beginning of the year.
European first-quarter sales round-up, Page 18