European Car Sales Down 17.2% in First Quarter of 2009, Iceland Down 91.3%!

The European car market fell 17.2 percent in the first quarter of 2009 with a total of 3,439,720 new registrations compared to 4,154,778 units in the same period last year, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) announced today. The most chilling decline was recorded in Iceland were the new car market melt down. According to ACEA's data, vehicle registrations in Iceland during the first three months of the year plunged (that's an understatement...) 91.3% to just 290 units from 3,322 car a year earlier.

Alarming declines were also recorded in Romania (-60.7%), Lithuania (-70.2%), Estonia (-64.2%). Latvia (-77.9%) and Ireland (-64.9%).

The downturn also hit the Spanish (-43.1%) and the British (-29.7%) markets as well as the Italian and French that were down 19.1% and -3.9% respectively. Among the smaller markets in Western Europe, Luxemburg (-10.4%), Switzerland (-12.3%), Austria (-12.9%) and Belgium (-15.3%) performed best.

On a bright note, German consumers responded positively to the government's incentive scheme introduced in January as sales in the first three months of the year were up by an impressive 18% over the same period in 2008.

In March, sales of new cars across Europe were down 9 percent from a year ago, marking the eleventh consecutive month in which a decrease was recorded nd and Iceland posted a decline of 64.9% and 91.3% respectively.