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The new car market has also been a bright spot in the UK over the past year, persistently outperforming the rest of Europe. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA
Europe's car market took its foot off the pedal in April with the slowest growth in new vehicle sales for five months, adding to concerns that the continent's broader economic recovery is losing steam.
Sales of new cars in the EU were 4.6% higher than a year earlier at 1.09m according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), but that followed a 10.6% rise in March.
"In absolute figures, the total units registered marked the third lowest result to date for a month of April since ACEA began the series in 2003 with the enlarged EU," the association said.
Europe was dragged down by its powerhouse, Germany, where sales fell 3.6% in April to just over 274,000 vehicles. There was growth in all other major European markets, including Spain, where sales of new cars jumped 28.7% to more than 80,000.
The new car market has also been a bright spot in the UK over the past year, persistently outperforming the rest of Europe. In April sales in the UK rose 8.2% to nearly 177,000.
Sales in the EU over the first four months of year were up 7.4% at 4.3m.
Slowing growth in Europe's car market reflected the trend in the wider economy, with GDP growth across the EU of 0.3% in the first quarter, slowing from 0.4% in the last three months of 2013.
The picture looked weaker still in the eurozone, where the growth rate among the 18 member states halved to 0.2% compared with the previous quarter.
The weakening recovery has raised acute expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will take measures to breathe some life back into the region's economy at next month's policy meeting, with a cut in the main interest rate and the rate paid on bank deposits both possible. The ECB's president, Mario Draghi, said after the most recent meeting that he was comfortable with the prospect of the bank acting.