* European car sales rise for fourth month
* Dec gain is biggest monthly increase since Dec 2009
* Renault, VW, Ford, GM, Toyota post double-digit growth
BERLIN, Jan 16 Renault, Volkswagen
and Ford spurred monthly European car sales to
their highest year-on-year gain in four years in December,
industry data showed on Thursday, as the sector recovery spreads
to Mediterranean markets.
Registrations in the European Union and European Free Trade
Association trading bloc jumped 13 percent to 948,090 vehicles,
the fourth straight monthly gain, the Association of European
Carmakers (ACEA) said.
Italy, the region's fourth-biggest market, swung to growth
of 1.4 percent after eleven consecutive months of contraction as
all major markets increased sales. Greece and Portugal, victims
of the euro zone's debt crisis, posted double-digit growth.
"The recovery process in Europe is seemingly taking hold,"
Matthias Wissmann, head of Germany's VDA auto industry lobby
said. "People are building up trust again in the strength of
The December rally pared the sales decline for 2013 to 1.8
percent or 12.3 million cars, the sixth consecutive year of
contraction but a more modest fall than many in the industry had
feared earlier in 2013.
Sales at Renault rose 29 percent, driven by a 48
percent-surge at its low-cost Dacia brand. Germany's VW,
Europe's No. 1 carmaker by volume, gained 22 percent, with
double-digit growth extending from luxury flagship Audi to the
no-frills Skoda and Seat divisions.
Ford registrations were up 19.5 percent and Toyota,
the global sales champion, posted a 10.8 percent increase.
For 2014, most industry executives and analysts expect a
return in Europe to low single-digit growth while cautioning
that further losses are likely as pricing remains under pressure
due to chronic excess capacity.
Even automakers beset with losses or lacking new models won
respite across the market of 30 countries.
French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen and Italy's
Fiat swung back to sales growth of 8.6 percent and 2.3 percent,
respectively, from declines of 1.2 percent and 5.8 percent in
GM deliveries bounced back to 13 percent growth from
a 3.8 percent contraction a month earlier, even as the U.S.
carmaker is withdrawing its underperforming Chevrolet marque
from Europe to focus on reviving mid-market Opel.
The loss-making Opel/Vauxhall brands sprung back to 22
percent growth, after a 3.1 percent drop in November.
"There were some early signs of green shoots in the final
quarter" of 2013, Bernstein analyst Max Warburton said in a Jan.
13 research note. "But it's patchy and far from sufficient to
rescue the industry."
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by John Stonestreet)