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UPDATE 1-European February new car sales fall 18.3 pct-ACEA

* Sales down 18.3 percent across Europe to 968,159 units

* Downturn more pronounced in new EU member states

* Western Europe boosted by German scrapping incentive

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PARIS, March 13 (Reuters) - European new car registrations fell 18.3 percent in February, industry association ACEA said on Friday, as the industry downturn accelerated in new member states, but sales incentives in Germany bolstered Western Europe.

Amid a global slump in demand for new cars, that has left some automakers fighting for survival, and forced production cuts and job losses, a total of 968,159 new passenger cars were registered in Europe, which includes the 27 member states, plus the European Free Trade Association countries, ACEA said.

In a month with on average one less working day than February 2008 across the region, Western European car registrations fell 17.3 percent, while new member states saw a 30.3 percent drop.

The German market boosted Western Europe’s tally, with “strong demand in certain market segments following the recent motor vehicle tax reform and scrapping bonus introduced by the German government”.

German registrations soared 21.5 percent in February, but the only other market in Western Europe to show growth was Luxembourg -- up 0.3 percent.

Iceland fared the worst, with a drop of 91.2 percent, while France -- also cushioned by scrapping incentives -- declined the least, with a 13.2 percent fall.

Crisis-hit Spain was down 48.8 percent, while Italian registrations dropped 24.4 percent and the UK posted a 21.9 percent decrease.

Among new member states, Poland registered a 7.3 percent increase on February last year, with 30,194 new cars registered, while Hungary’s registrations dropped 46.4 percent and Romania plunged 66.5 percent.

Across Europe in February, Europe's largest carmaker Volkswagen VOWG.DE posted a 10.2 percent drop in new passenger car registrations for the group, while its Spanish Seat brand saw a 31.2 percent fall, and the Volkswagen brand declined by 6.2 percent.

Within Daimler, the Mercedes premium brand posted a 34.2 percent plunge, while Smart car registrations edged up 0.6 percent compared with February 2008, leaving the group as a whole down 29.8 percent.

The PSA Peugeot Citroen PEUP.PA group saw new registrations fall by 25.3 percent, while fellow French manufacturer Renault RENA.PA was down 23.1 percent.

Italy's Fiat FIA.MI posted a 16.5 percent group-wide decline.

Struggling U.S. manufacturer General Motors GM.N, whose European brands including Sweden's Saab and Germany's Opel are fighting for survival, posted a 21.9 percent drop in February registrations.

Japan's Nissan 7201.T recorded a 25.5 percent drop in February. (Reporting by Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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