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European sales are hurt by continuing economic uncertainty (Photo: EIB)

Passenger car sales in the European Union fell 10.2 pc in March, posting the 18th consecutive monthly decline, the European auto industry association, ACEA, said Wednesday.

Unit sales fell to 1.307 million in March from 1.455 million a year earlier. Sales in the first three months of the year dropped 9.8 pc to 2.989 million units from 3.314 million units a year earlier.

Market analysts don't expect an improvement in European car sales until the second half of the year at the earliest. They say the market is depressed by weak consumer confidence resulting from worries over the economic outlook and uncertainty about the future of the euro.

The ACEA data, which cover all 27 EU member nations with the exception of Malta, showed that, among major markets, French car sales fell 16.2 pc in March, German sales dropped 17.1 pc and Italian sales were down 4.9 pc. Sales in the UK rose 5.9 pc for the month.

Among major automakers, Toyota posted a sharp 16.3 pc decline in March unit sales, Ford fell 15.8 pc, PSA retreated 16.0 pc and Volkswagen Group was down 9.0 pc in the EU.