THE European car industry is in crisis. Sales are headed for their biggest annual plunge in 19 years after the continent's main lobby group for the industry said that deliveries tumbled 11pc across the EU last month.
Registrations dropped to just 1.13 million vehicles, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said. Nine-month sales are down 7.2pc.
Four of Europe's five biggest car markets shrank last month, with German deliveries -- which account for a quarter of the continent's total sales -- dropping 11pc.
That is in line with what has been happening in Ireland. Here, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry said recently that sales fell 10pc in September, compared to the same month last year.
That means just 2,487 new cars were sold here in September. Sales in the first nine months of the year are down 12pc at 76,630.
Volkswagen is the best-selling marque in Ireland -- just as it is in the rest of Europe -- followed by Ford and Toyota. The best-selling cars last month were the new BMW 3 series, the Ford Focus and the Skoda Octavia.
Falling car sales,a problem for almost every company, are hurting manufacturers to varying degrees.
Companies with big east European operations appear to be doing better when it comes to the bottom line than rivals which focus production in western Europe.
It is not often appreciated that eastern Europe produces around a fifth of the cars sold in the continent. Kia's Cee'd and the Hyundai i30 are made exclusively in eastern Europe while Volkswagen produces its 'UP!' model in Bratislava.
Skoda's success here in Ireland and elsewhere has helped ensure that Slovakia and the Czech Republic are the world's top two producers of cars per capita.
General Motors, which mainly makes cars in expensive countries, such as Germany and the UK, saw group sales in Europe drop 16pc to 95,398 vehicles in September, led by a 20pc drop for the Chevrolet marque.
General Motors' main Opel and Vauxhall brands posted a 16pc decline -- helping the Detroit-based carmaker to rack up losses of $16.8bn in Europe since 1999.
Peugeot, which has based production in its native France, posted an 8.6pc slide in sales in Europe last month to 121,898 cars. The Paris-based manufacturer has been burning through €200m in cash every month as the market contracts.
Many analysts are now predicting that the slowdown in car sales across Europe will start to claim casualties in 2013. Who will be first is still anybody's guess.