On the road to recovery? EU car sales accelerate

European car sales bounced back in the first half of the year and rose almost 15 percent in June alone – even in Greece, according to new car sales data, signalling a tentative rise in consumer confidence over the regions' economic recovery.

New car sales in the European Union (EU) rose 8.2 percent in the first half of the year, according to data published by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association on Thursday, surpassing 7 million units (7,169,984).

All major markets posted growth, contributing to the overall upturn of the EU market over the period, the EAMA said.

In June alone, new passenger car registrations in the region rose 14.6 percent from the same month a year ago, continuing an upward trend that started 22 months ago "and marking the largest over-the-month increase since December 2009," the association added.

All major markets significantly supported the overall expansion in June, with Spain (up 23.5 percent), France (up 15.0 percent), Italy (up 14.4 percent), Germany (up 12.9 percent) and the U.K. (up 12.9 percent) posting double-digit growth. In Portugal, new car sales rose 33.9 percent.

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Even Greece, in the midst of an ongoing financial crisis, experienced a 15.1 percent rise in car registrations in the first half of the year, and a 13 percent rise in June.

While the figures look impressive enough on paper, analysts were cautiously optimistic about the data. Claus Vistesen, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note Thursday that the data was, "in one line: Remarkable" but pointed out that car registrations are still far below past levels.

"The trend in car registration growth is now higher than at any time during the pre-crisis boom, only surpassed by the surge in 2009-10 following the recovery from the collapse in 2008. One of the key drivers, however, of these growth rates are base effects," he said. In other words, although there has been a strong recovery in car sales, "the level of monthly registrations remain depressed compared to their historical value," Vistesen said.

Other analysts had a more muted response to the data, saying they were cause for "cautious optimism", according to Colin Couchman, director of Global Light Vehicle Forecast Research at IHS Global Insight.

"It's a bit of a mixed picture out there but generally speaking, the figures show a more confident outlook in car sales," Couchman told CNBC Thursday.

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"We do see better things to come but while you have a cyclical recovery and some bright spots in some countries, the problem is that we think that some markets could be peaking, such as that in the U.K. and Spain. This would mean that in future we're relying on demand coming back in countries like Italy and France."

Couchman said that there were other factors that could be increasing sales, such as "tactical schemes" where dealerships register the car sales themselves in order to meet targets. There was evidence of this going on in Germany, France and the U.K., he said.


- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld