New-car sales in Western Europe increased by 6.7 percent in April -- helped by a continuing economic recovery, new models and heavy discounting by automakers.
Overall registrations in the region increased to 1.12 million as southern European countries recovered from a slump following the 2008 financial crisis, consulting firm LMC Automotive said.
Strong wage growth and an eight-year high measure of European consumer sentiment are helping sales growth, LMC said in a statement.
Italy, Europe's fourth-largest market, posted the strongest gain, with sales surging 24 percent, boosted by heavy discounting led by Fiat, which offered discounts up to 3,000 euros for owners to trade in their cars. German sales were up 6.3 percent, largely on the back of higher company car volume, while UK registrations rose by 5 percent. In France sales increased by 2.3 percent.
April sales rose 22 percent in Portugal, and an estimated 21 percent in Ireland and even crisis-hit Greece reported a 1.6 percent gain, LMC data showed. Only Belgium and the Netherlands saw monthly car sales fall, dropping 3.6 percent and 4.0 percent year-on-year, respectively.
LMC said the annualized selling rate was 13 million units. It forecast that full-year sales will increase by 6.6 percent to 12.9 million cars. IHS Automotive was more cautious, predicting 3 percent growth to 12.5 million.
IHS said new launches such as the upcoming Audi A4 and Volkswagen Tiguan will help boost sales in Germany, where registrations in the first four months have been fueled by new or updated cars such as the VW Passat, Mercedes-Benz C class and Opel Corsa, along with high levels of discounting.
IHS analyst Tim Urquhart warned of "significant risks" from the prospect of a Greek default and from the potential fallout from conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Reuters contributed to this report