European car sales plunge the most in 13 months in April

European car sales were down 6.8 per cent in April due to a fall in demand for Volkswagen-branded cars, fewer trading days during Easter, and a double-digit sales drop in the UK, industry figures published today showed.

Registrations fell to 1.23 million cars last month in the EU and European Free Trade Association countries, according to Brussels-based industry body  European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), down from 1.32 million a year earlier.

The decline in April registrations, the first monthly drop this year, limited the four-month increase to 4.5 per cent at 5.49 million cars, ACEA said.

This year Easter was in April, which led to more depressed sales figures as against a year earlier, according to ACEA.

Registrations of VW, the biggest selling car brand in Europe, declined 14 per cent in April, while Renault, the next best selling brand, saw sales slide 3.3 per cent, statistics showed. Sales at Vauxhall and Opel were down 13.1 per cent.

Nearly every auto brand posted falling sales, except for Toyota, which saw sales rise by 5.4 per cent, and Kia, whose sales rose 8.1 per cent.

The main reason for the fall in sales was the drop in the region's two largest markets, Germany and the UK.

Registrations in Germany were down 8 per cent and in UK 19.8 per cent, according to ACEA figures.

According to commentators, the shift of Easter from March reduced buyers' time for shopping, while registrations in the UK were further cut by tax changes.

''Further weaker results are expected in the UK through this year, as the economy slows down, car-price rises feed through and the market eases back from a cyclically strong period,'' Jonathon Poskitt, an analyst at LMC Automotive in Oxford, England, said in a report.

The April drop came as the first decline since October and was the steepest since a 10 per cent plunge in March 2013, the year Europe's auto market slumped to a two-decade low.

Demand had since then revived, reaching a nine-year high in 2016 and despite April's poor performance, sales were set to increase again in 2017, albeit at a slower pace.