April 4, 2019 / 2:50 PM / in 15 days

Western European March car registrations down 3.7 percent - LMC

PARIS, April 4 (Reuters) - Western European car sales fell 3.7 percent in March as a recovery from emissions-test bottlenecks proved short-lived, LMC Automotive data said.

Registrations fell to 1.64 million cars last month from 1.7 million a year earlier, the consulting firm said on Thursday. Its numbers are based on national sales data and estimates for some of the smallest markets.

“March represented a setback for the region,” LMC analyst David Oakley said.

Registrations had previously been picking up following chaotic implementation of new “WLTP” test standards that led to some key models being withheld from sale into late 2018.

The seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of Western European sales also fell 5.8 percent from February to 14.06 million cars last month.

Uncertainty over the terms and timing of Britain’s departure from the European Union weighed on UK sales, down 3.4 percent as would-be car buyers waited for clarity, Oakley said.

The data suggested that “if there is an orderly resolution to the current Brexit impasse, there is the potential for the UK market to recover as the year goes on,” he added.

For the first quarter, Western European registrations fell 3.5 percent to 3.78 million, LMC said. The firm has trimmed its 2019 growth forecast for the region to 0.3 percent from the 0.8 percent it predicted at the start of the year.

March registrations fell 0.5 percent in Germany, 2.3 percent in France, 9.6 percent in Italy and 4.3 percent in Spain, according to data published in recent days. (Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by David Evans)

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