Europe's economic woes caught up with Volkswagen in April as monthly new-car sales at the region's biggest automaker fell 5.2 percent in a total market down 6.5 percent, as consumers tightened spending.
In previous months, Volkswagen had posted healthy sales gains in Europe, helped by a buoyant German home market and, according to rivals, aggressive pricing.
But last month, group sales at the automaker dropped to 261,571 in the 27-member EU states plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, industry association ACEA said on Wednesday.
Deliveries at the core VW brand fell 8.4 percent. Sales at VW's Spanish unit Seat were down 22.3 percent, while Audi had a 4.4 percent gain and Skoda's volume increased by 4.0 percent.
Despite the volume decline, VW Group's European market share grew by three percentage points to 24.7 percent because its sales fell less than the total market.
Last week, VW Group sales chief Christian Klingler said the automaker had revised downward its annual sales forecast as the company expects markets in western Europe to deteriorate further.
April registrations at Europe's second-largest automaker, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, fell by just 0.2 percent with a 4.6 percent rise at Citroen outweighing a 4 percent drop at Peugeot. Renault Group sales dropped 15 percent.
There was more bad news for General Motors Co.'s Opel/Vauxhall unit, which is facing plant closures and job losses to restore profitability. The division's April sales decreased by 17 percent, a higher decline than Ford Motor Co. whose volume fell 8.3 percent and Fiat Group, whose sales were down by 11.3 percent.
Premium automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz had sales gains, as did Korean brands Hyundai and Kia.
Europewide registrations fell 6.5 percent in April to 1.06 million vehicles from 1.13 million a year earlier, the seventh consecutive monthly decline. Four-month deliveries decreased 7.1 percent to 4.49 million cars.