European car sales are the weakest in two decades, but it could’ve been worse

Time to make better ads or better cars?

Quartz

The good news: Auto sales in the European Union were up more than 13% in December. The bad news: Full-year sales in 2013 were down by around 2%, the sixth consecutive year of decline. The volume of cars sold in the EU last year was the lowest since 1995, according to data released by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association today.

If not for a late-year surge, an even grimmer sales record would have been set. The renewal of a trade-in subsidy scheme in Spain is helping boost sales in an otherwise moribund economy. The practice of “self-registration,” where new cars are bought by dealers and then sold to customers as “used” at a hefty discount, remains rife. Buyers can routinely purchase cars for a fifth off the retail price in France, Germany and the UK, according to Automotive News Europe.

Analysts think that sales will eke out…

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