New car sales across Western Europe totalled 1,326,765 units in April, up 2.1% from 1,300,011 units last year.
However, the report issued by forecasting alliance JD Power-LMC said: 'April was a cruel month. At first glance, the 2.1% estimated increase in West European car sales looks reassuring. Then, when one recalls there was one fewer Sunday, and no Easter this April, the results appear in a much less favourable light.'
It added: 'The Spanish and Italian markets continue to give the most obvious causes for concern. French demand remains stable at a high level; German demand stable at a low level.'
Sales in Italy fell from 222,334 units in April last year to 191,300 units this year and in Spain they tumbled from 128,470 units to 120,436 units, a drop of 6.3%.
On German sales figures, which this year totalled 308,000 during April up from 295,013 last year, a rise of 4.4%, JD Power-LMC said: 'German sales look likely to have been pretty much in line with the 3.2 million units a year selling rate that we saw during the first quarter. We expect a figure of something under 310,000 units. This would represent an improvement on the year-earlier figure, but not enough of an improvement to offset the very disappointing March result,' it added.
Commenting on Italy's sales, the report said: 'Once again, the results from Italy were distinctly poor. Although the 13.4% fall in April sales is pretty much in line with the percentage change for the other months of the year so far, calendar considerations mean that its implications are more alarming: the selling rate slipped below two million units a year for the first time since 1996.'
It said mitigating factors for the situation in Italy included a one-day strike against the reform of labour markets and the fact many Italians 'took the greatest advantages of the opportunity to have a spring holiday between the two bank holidays.'