MILAN — Europe’s auto market is in freefall. Once the motor for Europe’s economy, the car industry has fallen victim to the region’s widening recession and soaring unemployment. Carmakers have suffered 18 straight months of declining sales as people worried that they might soon be out of a job put off making big purchases.
New car sales across Europe slid 10 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to 2.9 million, down from 3.3 million in 2012, the European automakers association ACEA reported from Brussels on Wednesday. Even in Germany, one of Europe’s strongest economies, new car sales plunged 13 percent during the first three months of the year.
Across the rest of Europe, the figures were just as disappointing. Most major markets saw double-digit contractions: down 11.5 percent in Spain, 13 percent in Italy and 14.6 percent in France.