Spanish car sales slump: industry data

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New car sales in Spain were down for a fourth month running in October, plumbing early 1990s' lows and sparking concerns over the future of an industry which employs 500,000, the Spanish Automakers Federation (ANFAC) said on Tuesday.

"If the auto market does not recover, Spain will no longer be able to maintain current production levels," ANFAC warned, noting that a strong auto industry was a major player in the economy overall.

October car sales came to 61,366, up from 56,595 in September but down 37.6 percent from a year earlier to take the market back to levels last seen 15 years ago, ANFAC said.

In September, new car sales were down 26.9 percent from September 2009, after falls of 23.8 percent and 24.1 percent in August and July.

Initial figures suggest that individual car purchases, the largest segment of the market, may have fallen as much as 50 percent in October.

For all 2010, ANFAC put auto sales at less than 900,000 -- "a third year running when they will be back at early 1990s' levels."

The trouble began in July when the government increased sales taxes so as to bolster the public finances and a trade-in bonus scheme ended.

ANFAC has been warning for several months that problems in the auto industry could have a serious knock-on effect in an economy which has just scraped out of recession this year.

Spanish unemployment at around 20 percent is the highest in the eurozone.

© 2010 AFP

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