By David Jolley, Automotive News
Frankfurt, Germany -- Germany bucked the sales slide in major European markets in March by reporting a 3.4 percent increase in new-car volume.
Registrations in Europe's biggest market rose to 339 123 last month, Germany's motor vehicle authority KBA said on Tuesday.
First-quarter registrations increased 1.3 percent to 773 636.
"The German market is in robust shape," Matthias Wissman, president of the German industry association VDA, said in a statement. He warned that high fuel prices are dampening demand.
Volkswagen continues to dominate the German market.
VW brand registrations rose 9.2 percent to 72 627 last month, giving the marque a 21.4 market share, twice as much as No 2, BMW Group, whose sales of the BMW and Mini brands increased 11.6 percent to 30 965 for a share of 9.1 percent.
Mercedes was the third best-selling brand with sales down 0.8 percent to 27 029 for an 8 percent share. No. 4 Audi saw volume rise 3.6 percent 25 988.
Sales at Ford, at No. 5, fell 1.3 percent to 24,354 while No. 6 Opel suffered a 12.3 percent decline to 23 695.
Germany's rising car sales contrasted with France, Italy and Spain where volumes fell last month.
In Italy, new-car sales dropped 26.7 percent to 138 137, with volumes in the first three months down 20.9 percent. An auto transport truckers strike, combined with a slow economy, has hit Italian sales.
French car and light commercial vehicle sales declined 22 percent to 233 526 in March. Industry watchers expect French car sales to pick up through the year as March's poor result follows the withdrawal of scrapping incentives that had boosted small-car deliveries through March 2011. First-quarter deliveries of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles fell 20 percent to 610 161.
In Spain, registrations dropped 4.5 percent to 84,427 in March. Volume in the first quarter fell by 1.9 percent to 204 119.
Europe's auto market is set to decrease 5 percent this year because of weak economic growth, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said last week.