Tony O'Kane | Dec 9, 2008

It appears that Australian dealerships are not the only ones doing it tough. According to The Wall Street Journal, new-car registrations in the UK have dropped to their lowest point in 28 years, with 2008 November figures falling 37 percent compared to the same period in 2007.

The rest of Western Europe is also experiencing a downturn in new car sales with year-on-year figures for Spain, Italy, Germany and France dropping by 50, 30, 18 and 14 percent respectively.

Of course, with consumers everywhere tightening the purse strings and holding off on big purchases to conserve cash, it was inevitable that new-car sales would hit the wall. The crisis in consumer confidence - call it fear - has left virtually every automaker struggling to keep their heads above water and dealers desperately trying to offload massive inventories of unsold cars.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has included several concessions to the automotive industry in a new economic stimulus package. Included is a €1000 concession to people buying cars that emit less than 160 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The French Government will also be setting up a €1 billion fund to provide low-interest car loans to encourage purchases of new cars.

Strange days indeed.

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