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Brexit may figure into flat European car sales in October

Associated Press Associated Press 17/11/2016 By COLLEEN BARRY, AP Business Writer

MILAN — Car sales in Europe have contracted, albeit only slightly, for the first time since rebounding from the industry's longest-ever slump, but analysts said Thursday the slowdown doesn't appear to indicate a relapse.

The European auto manufacturers' association, ACEA, reported that car sales declined 0.02 percent in October to 1.1 million units. That was the first October sales decline since 2012, during the industry's six-year crisis.

IHS Markit analyst Carlos Da Silva said some of the slide could be attributed to a drop in confidence following Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union, reflecting the customary 3-month lag between when a car is ordered and when it is registered.

"We are now squarely at a point where some impact will be being seen, particularly from the reduced confidence levels displayed immediately following" the Brexit vote, Da Silva said. He added that he expects the vote's full impact on car sales to emerge next year.

Last month also had fewer working days than the previous October, he said. Roughly 50,000 cars typically are sold every day in October, so fewer sales days could have been a factor in the slight slowdown, Da Silva said.

Despite the flattening, gains in previous months means the region remains on track for full-year sales of 14.6 million vehicles, an increase of 6.5 percent, according to IHS Markit. The firm forecasts sales of 12.35 million units in 2017.

"All in all, there is a fair chance that we are effectively experiencing an actual, not only technical, slowdown, but envisioning a relapse now seems largely unfounded in the short term," Da Silva said.

Sales were down in two of the top markets, dropping by 5.6 percent in Germany and 4 percent in France. Italy grew by nearly 10 percent while Spain was up by 4 percent, largely attributed to rental and company car fleet sales, and Britain up by a modest 1.4 percent.

Among mass-market carmakers, Fiat Chrysler showed a healthy 7-percent growth, while larger competitors Renault, PSA Peugeot and Volkswagen all contracted. Luxury carmakers BMW and Daimler had boosts.

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