* Sales overall down 10.2 percent to 829,359
* Slowest Feb since ACEA started compiling figures in 1990
* Ford sales drop 20.8 percent to 53,660 cars
* GM, Fiat next biggest fallers
By Jennifer Clark
MILAN, March 19 Europe's car sales fell last
month to their lowest February level in at least 23 years,
industry figures showed on Tuesday, dwindling to the sort of
trickle usually only seen during the August holiday when cities
New car registrations shrank 10.2 percent to 829,359 in the
month compared with the year before, according to the
Association of European Car Manufacturers (ACEA). It was the
slowest February since ACEA started compiling figures in 1990.
After yearly sales slumped 8.2 percent to a 17-year low of
12.05 million vehicles in 2012, this year is already shaping up
to be another tough slog, particularly for mass-market carmakers
as consumers in recession-hit European economies postpone
Ford Motor Co has been one of the biggest casualties,
with sales dropping at twice the rate of the overall market's
decline for a third straight month. Its sales dropped 20.8
percent to 53,660 cars.
Ford is cutting back its European production capacity with
three plant closures, including its Genk factory in Belgium, to
stem regional losses.
General Motors Co and Fiat SpA were the next
biggest fallers, dropping 20.1 percent and 15.7 percent
Carmakers in Europe are still reeling from a poor 2012,
during which mass-market manufacturers lost an estimated $7
billion in the region, Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne
said at the Geneva car show this month.
"The recession and the car market slump is impacting the
countries most exposed to the dictates of austerity, but the
contagion is spreading to the entire eurozone," said Italian
automotive research group Studio Promotor in a statement.
Market forecaster LMC Automotive recently estimated this
year's sales would drop 3.1 percent in western European to 11.4
With the exception of August 2012 when just 688,000 cars
were sold, the month of February was the worst-ever month in
absolute terms since 2003, when ACEA figures started to measure
27, not 15, European countries.
European market leader Volkswagen AG saw sales
of its core VW brand fall nearly 10 percent and its luxury Audi
brand decline 3.8 percent.
Only three brands managed to add sales in February:
Korea's Hyundai Motor Co eked out a 1.4 percent
gain, Mazda Motor Corp rose 13.1 percent and Honda
Motor Co Ltd 27 percent.
Another bright spot was Britain, where sales rose 7.9
"All other significant markets faced a downturn, ranging
from 9.8 percent in Spain to 10.5 percent in Germany, 12.1
percent in France and 17.4 percent in Italy," ACEA said in a
Analysts at Citi noted: "The German drop is worrying as it
comes amidst the new launches like new A-Class and new VW Golf."