European Car Sales Tumble In September

Car sales fell 8.2 percent, their worst performance for the month in a decade, European car makers said, adding the economic slowdown is hitting them hard.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European car sales fell 8.2 percent in September, their worst performance for the month in a decade, European car makers said Thursday, claiming that the credit crunch and an economic slowdown is hitting them hard.

They said 1.3 million cars left show rooms -- the lowest number for September since 1998. September usually sees strong sales after slow business during summer vacation.

"Customers are increasingly hesitant to make large expenditures and find it more difficult to get their purchase financed," said car manufacturers' association ACEA.

Sales dropped the most in Britain -- down a fifth -- and Spain -- down nearly a third. Consumer spending is falling in both countries as their housing bubbles burst and costs for fuel, food and borrowing rise.

Also Thursday, the EU statistics office Eurostat confirmed that inflation in the 15 euro nations was 3.6 percent in September, confirming a first estimate published on Sept. 30.

More expensive transport fuel, heating oil, gas and dairy products pushed up prices from a year ago, Eurostat said. Outside the euro area, fast-growing EU nations are still seeing rocketing inflation with Latvia at 14.7 percent and Bulgaria at 11.4 percent.

Although cooler than record high inflation over the summer -- when oil prices soared to record levels -- the rate is still far above the European Central Bank's guideline of just under 2 percent.

The euro's central bank raised borrowing costs in June to 4.25 percnet to try to curb inflation but was forced to cut them to 3.75 percent last week to try and ease a credit crunch that has made it harder for companies to get loans and people to buy homes.

Euro-zone economic confidence fell to a seven-year low in September as a survey of European businesses and consumers showed they are increasingly pessimistic about how well the economy is doing.

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