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European car sales zoom ahead in July and August after slow year

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ European car sales zoomed ahead in July and August, contrasting slow sales for most of the year in major car-buying nations, and netting strong results for BMW AG, DaimlerChrysler AG, Fiat SpA and General Motors Corp.

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said Friday that sales across Europe grew 7.4 per cent in July from a year ago and 2.5 per cent in August.

Western Europe sales increased for the first time all year in July, it said, as French, Italian and British drivers picked up a new set of keys. That trend did not keep pace in August as solid growth in Italy outweighed slipping sales in Britain, Germany, France and Spain.

Luxury carmakers did well. BMW AG racked up the fastest growth of sales from the same months last year, up 20.1 per cent in July and 28.7 per cent in August. DaimlerChrysler AG expanded sales, especially for its key brand Mercedes, reporting an increase of 9.6 per cent in July and 9.1 per cent in August.

Italy's Fiat SpA kept up its comeback, buoyed by Italians' return to car showrooms, by reporting it had sold 8.5 per cent new cars in July and 8.4 per cent in August.

General Motors Corp. _ which makes Opel and Saab cars _ saw sales rise 9.5 per cent in July and 10 per cent in August.

Europe's largest carmaker, Volkswagen AG, did not enjoy the same surge, mainly due to lackluster results in its main market, Germany. Overall sales rose 2.5 per cent in July and fell 0.7 per cent in August.

France's Peugeot Citroen _ Europe's No. 2 _ saw the same problem. It grew sales by 8.8 per cent in July while they shrank 4.5 per cent in August.

Overall, some 1.35 million new cars were sold throughout Europe in July and 952,205 in August.

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European car sales zoom ahead in July and August after slow year
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