Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Fiat and Audi saw sales decline most in a European market down 4.6 percent in January. Volvo, PSA Group's DS brand and Dacia bucked the slide with large gains.
Registrations dropped to 1.23 million in the European Union and European Free Trade Association countries from 1.25 million a year earlier, industry association ACEA said on Friday in a statement.
Brands such as Porsche and Audi are still suffering from delays in certifying some vehicles under the tougher Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) that replaced the NEDC cycle in the EU in September.
European car sales had surged in the month before the new procedure became effective and have declined every month since.
Porsche has been hit hard by production bottlenecks resulting from WLTP. Its registrations plunged 50 percent in January.
Other brands with steep slides were Alfa Romeo, which saw sales slide 35 percent; Nissan, which fell 25 percent; Fiat brand, whose sales dropped 20 percent; and Audi, whose registrations declined by 17 percent.
Renault brand registrations fell 8.3 percent, Land Rover sales dropped by 7.6 percent and Ford's volume declined by 6.6 percent. Opel/Vauxhall and Toyota both saw volume fall 6.4 percent. Volume at VW brand fell 3.5 percent.
Volvo sales surged most, up 21 percent. DS registrations rose 14 percent while Dacia's volume gained 13 percent.
Among other marques bucking the downward trend were Seat, whose sales gained 6.5 percent; Smart with a 6.3 percent rise; and Mini whose registrations rose 3.7 percent. Showing modest gains were Citroen with volume up 2.8 percent; Kia whose sales rose 2.2. percent; and Jaguar whose registrations climbed 1.6 percent.
- Download PDF here for January sales by automaker, brand and market.
Sales declined in all of the region's largest markets of Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain. The region is battling a technical recession in Italy, uncertainty over a snap election in Spain, and the UK coming no closer to a deal on Brexit.
Germany, Europe's largest economy, narrowly avoided a contraction at the end of last year with economic jitters since intensifying. At its January meeting, the ECB indicated the balance of risks to its forecasts has shifted to the downside.
"The EU auto-demand cycle has peaked," Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean said in a note, while the head of Germany's most powerful labor union in Munich predicted employment in the country's car sector would top out in 2019.
Brexit, U.S risks
Automakers are facing added problems in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Renault this week warned it would only be able to meet its forecasts if the UK leaves the EU with a trade deal. Ford said earlier this week a hard Brexit would be "catastrophic" for the country's automotive sector and its own factories.
Some reprieve might come in the form of an extension of a deadline for higher tariffs by the U.S. on Chinese imports. The tensions have weighed on BMW and Daimler in particular, which ship American-made SUVs into China.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report