February 15, 2018 / 7:32 AM / 10 months ago

European car sales up 6.8 percent in January, led by French gains

BERLIN (Reuters) - Sales of passenger cars in Europe rose twice as fast in January as in the whole of 2017, helped by strong gains at France’s PSA Group and Renault, industry data showed.

Registrations increased 6.8 percent to 1.29 million cars last month in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, Brussels-based industry body ACEA said on Thursday, from 1.20 million a year earlier.

By comparison, sales in the region climbed for a fourth straight year in 2017 by 3.3 percent to 15.6 million vehicles.

“January is usually a strong month, people resorted to buying after holding back on purchases at the end of last year,” a spokeswoman for ACEA said, adding the number of selling days was unchanged compared to the same month a year earlier.

Sales by PSA including the newly-acquired Opel-Vauxhall brands surged 73 percent to 211,097 vehicles and were still up 12 percent if figures for the former General Motors division were excluded, the data showed.

French rival Renault posted a 9.5 percent gain to 118,405 models, marginally beating Europe’s biggest automotive group Volkswagen which grew 8.7 percent to 316,783 cars with its volume brands Skoda and Seat contributing a major part to the increase.

Four of Europe’s five biggest auto markets posted higher sales with only Germany and Spain managing double-digit advances while France and Italy recorded lower single-digit gains.

Europe’s No. 2 market Britain suffered its tenth consecutive monthly drop, with sales down 6.3 percent in part due to customers being put off from buying diesels, which politicians have targeted over air pollution concerns.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Ludwig Burger

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