European car sales rise in February despite caution

Car sales rose sharply in France, Italy and Spain in February as scrappage schemes lifted business, but European carmakers are set to face tougher times ahead as governments phase out incentives.

Scrapping programmes, which encourage new car purchases by paying cash bonuses when old models are traded in for new ones, limited the fall in European car sales last year to 1.6 per cent despite a savage industry crisis.

February new car registrations in Spain, Italy and France were boosted by incentives, with drivers flocking to showrooms to take advantage of the programmes before they evaporate.

“The really low level of orders is an indisputable sign of the terrible conditions the Italian car market is facing in the coming months,” the Italian foreign carmakers’ association UNRAE said yesterday, adding that orders in February slumped almost 35 per cent from last year.