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Automobile sales take further plunge in first half of month

19 February 2008

MADRID – Sales of passenger cars and SUVs in Spain continued their sharply downward trend since the start of the year in the first two weeks of February, Spanish wire service EFE on Monday quoted industry sources as saying.

In the period 1-15 February, sales were down 12.1 percent at 47,094 units, compared with the same period a year earlier. Sales of passenger cars in the period fell 10.9 percent to 43,358 units, while SUV sales dropped 23.6 percent to 3,736 units.

Sales fell 12.7 percent in January as tax changes and higher borrowing costs depressed the automobile market. Sales of SUVS in the month were particularly badly hit as a result of a hike in the registration tax at the start of this year for vehicles with high carbon dioxide emissions. This led consumers to buy SUVs ahead of time to avoid the higher tax.

Domestic spending has also been easing as a result of interest rate hikes by the European Central Bank, which has made consumers more cautious about buying big-ticket items.

The government also ended a system whereby consumers were given incentives to scrap older cars to buy new vehicles with lower levels of emissions.

Sales, however, are traditionally stronger in the second half of a month than in the first.

[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]

Subject: Spanish news