European Car Sales Zoom Ahead in July, August

European car sales zoomed ahead in July and August after slow sales most of the year in major car-buying nations, netting strong results for BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat and General Motors.

Carmakers' association ACEA said Friday that sales across Europe grew 7.4% in July from a year ago and 2.5% 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 racked up the fastest growth of sales from the same months last year, up 20.1% in July and 28.7% in August. DaimlerChrysler expanded sales, especially for its key brand Mercedes, reporting an increase of 9.6% in July and 9.1% in August.

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

General Motors -- which makes Opel and Saab cars -- saw sales rise 9.5% in July and 10% in August.

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

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

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

The ACEA's sales figures count new car registrations from 23 EU nations -- excluding the island nations of Cyprus and Malta -- as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.