Sales of new cars in the European Union surged by 16.6 per cent in December, new industry data showed Friday, carrying on a two-year growth spurt in the sector despite the scandal surrounding Volkswagen.
The German carmaker's image has been dented by US accusations that it installed software on its diesel cars to circumvent air pollution standards.
The Volkswagen Group - which includes the Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche brands - remained the market leader in December, but saw its market share shrink to just over 22 per cent, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
The Volkswagen group's sales in December rose by just 4.7 per cent year-on-year, among the lowest increases recorded.
Across the 28-country EU, just over 1.1 million cars were sold last month, compared to around 952,000 in December 2014. The Spanish, Italian and French markets led the way with increases of 20.7 per cent, 18.7 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively.
The Brussels-based ACEA spoke of "a very strong uplift," but also noted that 2015 car sales remained "low" at a total of 13.7 million.
"This result is only now passing levels registered in 2010, immediately after the economic crisis," it said.
Demand for new cars is seen as a leading indicator of economic health. It has now been rising in the EU for 28 consecutive months. The 16.6-per-cent increase recorded in December was the most significant seen in that time.