Western European car sales fell 23 percent in September on emissions tests: LMC

PARIS (Reuters) - Western European car sales dropped 23 percent in September, according to LMC Automotive data, in the wake of a summer discounting splurge that preceded tougher new emissions rules now keeping some models out of showrooms.

Registrations fell to 1.05 million cars last month from 1.36 million a year earlier, the consulting firm said on Thursday. Its numbers are based on national sales data and estimates for some of the smallest markets.

The new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test (WLTP) became mandatory on Sept. 1, forcing carmakers including Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE and Renault RENA.PA to halt deliveries of some models that had yet to be re-certified.

“The factors affecting the market are multifaceted, with backlogs in cars being tested under WLTP leading to the removal from sale of several popular models,” said LMC analyst David Oakley.

VW, Renault and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) FCHA.MI had led a sales surge in August, as carmakers boosted discounts and registrations of their own vehicles to be sold as nearly new on the used car market.

Citi analysts calculate that VW Group’s sales fell by half in September across Europe’s five biggest markets -- Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain -- while Renault’s dropped 28.7 percent and Fiat Chrysler’s 32.1 percent.

According to French market data supplied by industry newsletter AutoActu, models worst hit by September's slump included the Volkswagen Golf and Touran; Renault's Espace and Kadjar; alliance partner Nissan's 7201.T Qashqai SUV; and FCA's Fiat Tipo and Jeep Renegade.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of Western European sales plunged 39 percent from August to 11.26 million cars last month, LMC said - adding that VW model approval delays had contributed to market declines in Germany and the UK.

Total sales fell 30.5 percent in Germany, 20.5 percent in Britain, 12.8 percent in France and 25.4 percent in Italy, according to data published in recent days.

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Susan Fenton and Alexandra Hudson