New car sales in Europe last month marked the weakest October since 1996.

The Belgium-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) says new car registrations in 23 European countries plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland fell 2.6% to 1.6 million vehicles.

The association says the figures are indicative of continuing uncertain market conditions across the region, evidenced by a slowing down in the British economy - the UK is Europe's second biggest car market - together with higher interest rates and steeper fuel prices.

US car makers, who are looking to Europe to offset domestic troubles, saw market share shrink.

General Motors' new-car registrations in the region, made up of the company's Opel, Vauxhall, Chevrolet and Saab brands, fell 6.1% in October from a year earlier. During the first 10 months of 2005, its market share dropped to 10.6% from 10.7%.

New-car registrations for Ford, made up of its Ford, Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar brands, declined 1.6% in October. Ford's market share fell to 10.8% in the first 10 months from 11.1%.

Meanwhile, new-car registrations for German-US auto maker DaimlerChrysler rose 5% in October, mainly on an 8.8% rise in registrations for its re-vitalised Mercedes brand.

German rival BMW saw registrations fall 7.8% as a result of the weak UK, while French Renault's sales in Western Europe fell 12% in October, compared with a year earlier. Its European market share in the first 10 months fell to 9.8% from 10.2%.

France's Peugeot saw new-car registrations decline 4%, while registrations for Italy's Fiat were down 5.3%.

Japanese giant Toyota, on the other hand, gained 1.5% registrations in Europe last month.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff