MUNICH -- Car sales in Europe rose 6 percent in September, helped by automakers' price cuts and strong demand in the region's top markets of Germany, the UK and France.
New passenger-car registrations in the EU and the countries of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) increased to 1.27 million vehicles last month, industry association ACEA said today in a statement.
September sales benefited from an extra selling day compared with 2013. Monthly growth was the strongest since March, helping to lift nine-month sales by 6 percent to 9.91 million cars.
Europe's auto market has posted growth for 13 straight months. But the fragile recovery is still threatened by weak confidence and geopolitical uncertainties in Russia and elsewhere.
ISI Group's automotive research head, Arndt Ellinghorst, urged caution, saying September's growth was a more modest 1.3 percent when adjusted for an extra selling day.
Carlos Da Silva, manager for European light vehicle sales forecast at IHS Automotive, said September sales were helped by the number plate change in the UK and an end-of-quarter push by dealers and automakers.
Sales are being supported by high levels of direct and indirect incentives and even models that have a buzz around them such as the Renault Captur are being bolstered by special editions, he said.
The need to replace aging cars is another factor, he said, which explains why growth is slow. "So far fleet renewal is mostly supported by 'need' not by 'want,' Da Silva said.
Frank Biller, an analyst at LBBW in Stuttgart, Germany, said. "Everyone knows that the economic recovery on the whole is looking quite shaky, which means rising prices aren’t very likely, so consumers are holding back, which is keeping a lid on the European car recovery."
September sales in Germany, the region's biggest market, gained 5 percent to 260,062 vehicles. Second-placed UK and No. 3 market France were each up 6 percent. Growth of nearly 30 percent or more in Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries formerly hit by austerity, stoked demand for volume brands.