* EU/EFTA car sales down 6.3 pct year-on-year in June-ACEA
* Sales down 6.7 pct in first 6 months of year
* H1 registrations at lowest 6-month level since 1993
* BMW CEO sees no sign of recovery until well into 2014
By Jennifer Clark
MILAN, July 16 European car sales slumped to
their lowest six-months total in 20 years in the first half of
2013, with a 6.3 percent drop in June suggesting no let up for
an industry battered by overcapacity and weak demand.
European automakers have been suffering for months from the
effects of record unemployment and government austerity measures
in the euro zone, with some such as Peugeot seeking to
close factories and lay off workers to counter heavy
Italy's Fiat saw the biggest drop in sales among
major manufacturers last month, suffering a 13.6 percent slide,
followed by a 10.9 percent fall at France's Peugeot, while Ford
bucked the trend with a 6.9 percent rise.
"Even if there is a recovery in the second half of the year,
it's hard to see how it could be strong enough to offset the bad
results we've registered so far this year," said Quynh-Nhu
Huynh, economics and statistics director at the Association of
European Carmakers (ACEA), which compiled the figures.
Norbert Reithofer, chief executive of Germany's BMW
, said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday he did not
expect a rebound in western European markets until at least the
middle of next year.
ACEA said car registrations in European Union countries plus
those in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) fell 6.7
percent in the first half year to 6,436,743, the lowest six
monthly total since 1993.
Sales in June were the lowest for that month since 1996.
Nonetheless, some analysts were encouraged that sales fell
at a slower pace than in many previous months.
"The market has bottomed out, for sure," said Pierluigi
Bellini, head of sales forecasts for EMEA (Europe, Middle East
and Africa) at IHS Automotive. "We can't talk about a recovery
this year, but we see smaller monthly declines going forward."
The German market, which had resisted much of last year's
slump, shrank 4.7 percent in June, while sales in France and
Italy fell 8.4 and 5.5 percent respectively as unemployment and
austerity measures curb consumer spending.
Ferdinando Uliano, national secretary of the Italian
metalworkers' union FIM-CISL, said high taxes and insurance
costs were stifling demand and called on the government to act.
"What is the government waiting for to enact measures to
support investment in this key sector?" Uliano said in a
Sales in Britain, in contrast, remained robust, notching up
a 16th straight month of gains with a 13.4 percent increase.
Among luxury carmakers, Mercedes posted a 2
percent gain, powered by new models, while the BMW brand fell
7.7 percent and Volkswagen's Audi dropped 8.9