Record sales

Brussels (dpa) - New car sales in the European Union posted a year-on-year increase of 11.2 per cent in March, reaching the record total of 1.89 million units, an industry group reported on Wednesday.

The jump was influenced by the fact that Easter - a holiday during which car sales slow down - did not fall in March this year, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said in its monthly bulletin.

The market was buoyant in all five major EU markets, with Italy leading the way with an 18.2-per-cent jump. In Spain sales were up 12.6 per cent, in Germany 11.4 per cent, in Britain 8.4 per cent and France 7 per cent.

In the first quarter of 2017, car sales were up 8.4 per cent compared to January-March of 2016, totalling 4.1 million vehicles, ACEA added.

Germany's Volkswagen Group remained EU market leader in the quarter, but its share shrunk from 23.2 per cent to 22.6 per cent. France's PSA and Renault remained second and third placed, with 10- and 9.6-per-cent slices of the market.

Ford was the fourth-largest seller, with 7.4 per cent, followed by Fiat-Chrysler with 7.2 per cent, the Opel Group with 6.6 per cent, BMW-Mini with 6.3 per cent and Daimler - which sells Mercedes and Smart cars - with 5.9 per cent.

New car sales are a closely watched indicator of economic health. In the EU, they fell sharply following the 2008 global financial crash, but have been rising steadily since September 2013, save for a couple of months last year.