EU Car Sales Plummet 27 Percent

New car sales in Europe plummeted to the lowest level in two decades the European manufacturers' association ACEA said Friday.

BRUSSELS (AP) -- New car sales in Europe plummeted 27 percent in January from a year earlier, sinking to the lowest level in two decades as the crisis ravages the auto sector, an industry association said Friday.

The European manufacturers' association ACEA said there were losses in all countries.

Germany remained the continent's biggest seller despite a drop of 14.2 percent. Italy's sales fell 32.6 percent and Britain's 30.9 percent. Spain saw a 41.6 percent loss.

In recession-hit smaller nations like Iceland, sales crashed by a staggering 88 percent, in Latvia by 77.5 percent and in Ireland by 66 percent. France is the only major market to keep the losses in single digits with a decline of 7.9 percent.

Overall, the January figures announced Friday dropped below the million mark to 958,500 cars, the lowest level in two decades.

The car industry is a prime indicator of the economic collapse in Europe and European Union leaders are seeking to coordinate policies to get the sector out of the rut. Most nations have announced aid plans worth billions but the specter of massive job losses is still haunting an industry which employs some 12 million people directly and indirectly.

Renault SA announced Thursday it would scrap its dividend, halt development of three models and further cut its payroll.

France's second-largest carmaker reported a euro982 million ($1.27 billion) net loss in the second half of 2008, compared with a profit of euro1.42 billion in the same period of 2007.

Little improvement is expected as the Renault brand sales dropped 34 percent over the year in Europe.

Sales at the ailing General Motors group, which includes Opel, Chevrolet and Saab, dropped 34.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Group, the biggest seller in Europe, had overall losses of 18.8 percent, with its Skoda sales dropping as much as 33.7 percent.

PSA Group, the second best seller, saw Peugeot and Citroen sales fall 24.8 percent each.

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