Developments on the international passenger car markets varied considerably in January. The Western European market recorded 897,100 units sold, an increase of nearly 5 percent, according to a report by the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA), a special interest group representing the German automobile industry. Demand for passenger cars increased for the fifth month in succession.

China's sales totaled 1.7 million new cars, a new monthly record. Demand for passenger cars in Japan also soared in January (31 percent), while light vehicle sales in Brazil showed a modest rise on the previous year. By contrast, the light vehicle market contracted in the U.S. In Russia and India, demand for new cars also declined, according to the VDA.

The Western European passenger car market is continuing its recovery. All the top five markets expanded. In Germany demand for cars rose by a good 7 percent, in France it increased by nearly 1 percent, and in Italy it was up by a good 3 percent. In the United Kingdom and Spain, passenger car sales increased by around 8 percent.

In particular the smaller passenger car markets increased, in some cases quite considerably. Double-digit growth in new registrations was seen in Ireland (33 percent), Portugal (32 percent), Finland (24 percent), Sweden (19 percent), Iceland (17 percent), Greece (15 percent) and Denmark (10 percent), according to the VDA report.

The VDA also noted that new registrations of passenger cars in the new EU Member States amounted to 70,600 units, i.e. around 13 percent up on the same month last year. Especially strong rises occurred in car sales in Croatia (29 percent), Latvia (25 percent) and Slovakia (25 percent).

January passenger car sales in China once again expanded strongly. The growth did in fact ease off slightly (11 percent), but January 2014 was still the month with the highest sales levels ever in China (1.7 million units), according to the VDA.

The U.S. market for light vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks) totaled 1 million new vehicles and therefore started the year with a drop of 3 percent. According to the VDA, the main reason for this was the extreme winter weather, which kept customers away from the showrooms in many parts of the country. The trend towards light trucks continued in January. While sales in this segment increased by almost 3 percent to 531,000 units, passenger car sales slumped by nearly 9 percent to 477,600 vehicles.

In Japan, new registrations of passenger cars came to 433,600 units in January, up by almost 31 percent. However, purchases brought forward are distorting the market. In April, Japanese VAT will increase by 3 percentage points, according to the VDA. January passenger car sales in India remained more than 9 percent below the previous year's level. A total of 219,800 cars were newly registered. In Russia, sales of light vehicles decreased last month to 152,700 new vehicles, which was a drop of nearly 6 percent.

The Brazilian market for light vehicles started the New Year in robust form, according to the VDA report. At 300,100 units, sales were 1 percent up on the previous year.