New car registrations in western Europe fell 5.3% in March compared to the same month in 2000, the sixth consecutive month in which there has been a decline, according to a survey from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The March figures reflect total first-quarter new car sales of 4.04 million units, down 4.9% from 4.24m in Q1 2000.

In Germany, Europe’s largest market for new vehicles, the March decline was especially bad, registrations falling 9.4% year-on-year to 350,000. The Benelux nations, meanwhile, saw an even greater drop of 19.8%, while France and Italy recorded marginal falls.

Only two countries of the eighteen studied by the organisation reported a year-on-year rise in registrations – the UK (where cuts in list prices have stimulated demand) and Spain.

Among auto manufacturers, the Volkswagen group retained its market lead, raising share from 17.8% last year to 18.5% thanks to a 30% leap in Skoda sales. In second place, France’s Peugeot/Citroen closed the gap slightly, upping market share from 12.7% a year ago to 14%.

News source: Financial Times