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Slower drop in Europe car sales

EUROPEAN car sales braked at a slower pace in May, down 4.9 percent from a year ago as state handouts to car buyers eased a yearlong sales slump, an industry group said yesterday.

Sales of new cars fell for the 13th month in a row from the previous year, according to car makers' association ACEA, with only two major makers - Volkswagen AG and Fiat SpA - selling more than last year.

Government payments for car buyers helped sales surge in Germany by 39.7 percent and in France by 11.8 percent, it said. They also cushioned a slide in Italian sales, down 8.6 percent.

But customers in other large European Union nations are still wary of large purchases. British sales plunged nearly a quarter while Spain's fell nearly 40 percent. Both are suffering from a recession that has hit a housing boom.

Strong sales in its home market helped raise Europe's biggest car maker VW in Germany and post a 3.1 percent rise in sales. Italy's Fiat also raised sales by 2 percent as buyers opted for its small and fuel-efficient models.

But France's Peugeot Citroen lost 5.8 percent, Ford Motor Co fell 5 percent, General Motors Corp slipped 10.8 percent and Toyota Motor Corp dropped 8.9 percent.


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