European Car Sales Rise In September

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European car sales rose 6.3 percent in September compared to last year, helped by governments' popular cash-for-clunker programs, an industry group said Thursday.

The ACEA car industry federation said sales were "boosted in markets with government incentives to support fleet renewal."

In Germany, where such a program ran out in September, sales increased by 21 percent as consumers sought to catch the offer before it expired. In Spain, sales increased by 18 percent over the year.

In the cash-for-clunkers schemes, car buyers get a cash payment to swap an old car for a newer, more fuel-efficient model. That has also boosted purchases of smaller, cleaner cars.

The current surge does not make up for the losses earlier in the year, when the financial crisis hit household across the continent hard.

Comparing the January-September period to a year earlier, sales are still down 6.6 percent. During that period, German and Slovakia -- which both have big cash-for-clunker programs -- saw sales surge by 26.1 percent and 19.7 percent. The Czech Republic and Austria saw sales increase by 8 percent and 6.7 percent. France had a slight increase of 2.4 percent and Poland 1.7 percent.

Highlighting the damage the financial crisis has wreaked on some countries, January-September sales dropped by 80 percent on the year in Latvia and 79.5 percent in Iceland. The slump was almost as big in Lithuania, with a drop of 69.4 percent, while Estonia, Romania and Ireland also saw some 60-percent losses.

The cash-for-clunkers programs are part of the massive fiscal stimulus measures introduced by governments in the wake of the financial crisis to turn the global economy around.

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