Europe new car sales down 7.1% in January image

New car registrations in Europe declined 7.1 percent in January to 968,769 units compared to the year earlier, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said on Thursday.

France and Italy registered a double-digit downturn of 20.7 percent and 16.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Spain logged a 2.5 percent growth in car registration. Markets remained almost stable in the U.K. and Germany.

After the 2.1% decline in new car sales last year, 2012 is likely to be another difficult one for France’s car industry, CCFA spokesman Francois Roudier indicated last month.

French carmakers polled by Insee last month reported a steep drop in domestic and foreign orders. With inventories rising, their outlook for near-term production fell further below the long-term average.

The big winners among brands were South Korea’s Kia and Hyundai, up 30.6 percent and 17.9 percent respectively, with the French and Italian champions Renault, Fiat and PSA Peugot-Citroen groups losing 25.2 percent, 16.2 percent and 14.9 percent respectively.