Fiat, PSA and Renault lead sales decline in Europe in 2011 image

Fiat, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault were hit hard as car sales in Europe declined for the fourth consecutive year amid high unemployment and falling consumer confidence.

Car registrations in Europe fell 1.4 percent last year to 13.6 million vehicles, industry group ACEA said today in a statement. Four of the region’s five biggest markets shrank, with Spain and Italy leading annual declines at 18 percent and 11 percent respectively. Consumer confidence in Europe fell to the lowest level since August 2009 as unemployment maintained at its highest rate since before the introduction of the euro in 1999.

Fiat sales declined 12 percent, while PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault decreased 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said earlier this month that the European auto market may be flat until 2014, with Italian sales likely to reach their lowest level since 1985 this year at less than 1.7 million vehicles. PSA and Renault, France’s largest carmakers, are cutting production capacity to reduce inventories.

GM, whose main brands in Europe are Opel and Vauxhall, posted a 2 percent decline, while Ford’s registrations fell 3 percent. Industrywide car sales in western Europe are expected to fall to 12.1 million vehicles in 2012.