April 1, 2009 / 10:52 AM / in 9 years

UPDATE 2-Italy March new car sales up 0.24 pct - ministry

* Fiat Group sales up 6.1 percent

* Research group sees improvements for April, May

* Orders up 36 percent in March, car makers group says

(Recasts lead with new car sales, adds outlook statements)

MILAN, April 1 (Reuters) - Italian new car registrations rose 0.24 percent to 214,218 units in March, transport ministry figures showed on Wednesday, the first increase in a year and a sign government incentives are finally bearing fruit.

Car orders in March rose 36 percent on the year to 276,000, Italy’s foreign car makers’ association UNRAE said in a separate statement.

Fiat FIA.MI, the country’s biggest car maker, saw its sales rise for cars under its three brands, up 6.1 percent to 69,882 units in March, Reuters calculations, which were based transport ministry figures, showed.

Like other car makers worldwide, Fiat has struggled in the face of declining sales in the worst industry crisis in decades.

It has been forced to slash costs, including the suspension of production at its plants in Italy, and is negotiating an accord with U.S. automaker Chrysler [CBS.UL].

Fiat’s market share of sales rose to 32.62 percent in March, against 30.83 percent in the year earlier same period, the Reuters calculations showed.

The group’s orders in March rose 59 percent, a company source said.

UNRAE said the overall orders bode well for future sales.

“An orders portfolio so high will certainly have positive effects on registrations in April,” UNRAE said, noting that, unlike last year, the Easter holidays this year fall in April, lowering the number of working days.

Research group Promotor said the full impact of car incentives will be felt in April and May, which therefore should see results much better than those of March.

The group said to stimulate demand further, legislation for consumer credit support needs to become operative.

For more information about the latest figures, double-click on the following link to the ministry’s website (www.infrastrutture.gov.it)

For a story on global car sales for March [ID:nL1176986] (Reporting by Gilles Castonguay; Editing by David Holmes and Andrew Macdonald)

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