volkswagen Volkswagen Polo GTI.jpg
Photograph: Volkswagen

Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen's market share shrunk in February as it struggles to tackle the emissions-testing scandal that has engulfed the group, while data released Wednesday showed sales of its European competitors surging.

VW sales have been hurt in the wake of the carmaker's admission that it cheated on emissions tests for its diesel models around the world.

However, data released by the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) showed VW brand sales, such as its Golf and Passat models, rising by 4.4 per cent in February compared with the same month last year.

VW group sales, which also included its Porsche, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands, jumped by 8 per cent in February, the ACEA said.

But VW brand models' market share in the EU fell to 23.9 per cent in February compared with 25.3 per cent a year earlier, the association said.

At the same time, new passenger car sales in the European Union rose for the 30th consecutive month in February, jumping by 14.3 per cent when compared with February 2015 amid strong demand for both luxury and mass-market brands, according to the ACEA.

Altogether 1.057 million cars were solid across the 28-member bloc last month, led by double-digit percentage rises in the region's major markets – Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

Analysts said the advances in EU car sales were helped by a range of factors including the launch of new models, dealers' discounts, record low interest rates, the slump in petrol prices and an extra sales day resulting from the leap year.

VW's Czech-based Skoda helped to give the group a boost when it reported on Wednesday a 6.5-per-cent rise in post-tax profit in 2015 to a record 708 million euros (639 million dollars) following a 6.2-per-cent increase in sales.

Meanwhile, a German court ruled against a Volkswagen customer that demanded the carmaker take back a vehicle fitted with software aimed at cheating on emissions tests.

The Bochum court's decision was the first of a series of cases brought by German car owners against VW because of the emissions test defeating software that has been installed in an estimated 11 million diesel cars worldwide.

VW's main European competitors enjoyed an even stronger growth sales in February with France's Peugeot-Citroen PSA group reporting a 13.2-per-cent gain.

February sales for Italy's FCA group, which includes Alfa Romeo and Lancia/Chrysler brands, rose by 23 per cent led by a 24-per-cent jump in deliveries of its flagship Fiat brand.

Meanwhile, sales of luxury Mercedes-Benz saloons outpaced its main rivals – BMW and Audi – rocketing up by 22.4 per cent in February. The gain compared with a 14.7-per-cent rise for BMW – the world's leading premium carmaker - and a 17.1-per-cent gain for Audi, the VW group's luxury offshoot.

In addition to Spain, other car markets which have been at the centre of the euro debt crisis such as Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus also reported big rises in passenger car deliveries in February.

The exception was Greece, which reported a dramatic 32.4-per-cent contraction in sales.

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