European car sales still declining but at a slower pace

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European car sales enjoyed their highest year-on-year gain in four years in December.

Analysts said that seemed to show the economic recovery process in Europe was taking hold, but they cautioned the pick up was patchy and not yet enough to rescue the auto industry.

Registrations in the European Union and European Free Trade Association trading bloc jumped 13.3 percent, a huge contrast to the December 2012 when they were down by virtually the same amount.

The December rally was the fourth straight monthly gain, but two extra working days in the five biggest markets Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain were a factor.

It meant that for all of 2013 the sales decline was 1.8 percent from the previous year. It is the sixth straight year of falling registrations.

The top three manufacturers in terms of gains in December were France’s Renault – particularly its low-cost Dacia brand – Germany’s Volkswagen and the US company Ford, but all are having to cut prices to make sales which hits profits.