European new-car sales rose for a third consecutive month last month, the longest period of gains in four years, as demand for cars from Volkswagen and Renault contributed to signs that an industrywide decline is ending. Registrations increased 0.9 per cent year on year last month to 975,281 vehicles, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association said yesterday. The growth followed gains of 4.6 per cent in October and 5.5 per cent in September. Alfredo Altavilla, chief operating officer of Italian carmaker Fiat's European operations, said he hoped and thought Europe's car market had hit bottom because it was "slowly stabilising". "Talking about recovery is another story," he said. Europe's car market is still on track for a sixth consecutive annual decline, as 11-month registrations fell 2.8 per cent to 11.4 million cars. Full-year sales dropped 7.8 per cent last year to 12.5 million vehicles. Even with the three-month gain, sales remain close to the lowest since the association began compiling figures in 1990, said Quynh-Nhu Huynh, the trade group's economics and statistics director. Except for November, when figures were the third-worst for the month, "registrations recorded for every month this year were at the lowest level or second-lowest ever recorded", she said. The only large European carmakers to post group sales increases in the region last month were Volkswagen and Renault. VW's registrations in Europe rose 3.2 per cent, with gains of 0.8 per cent at the namesake brand, 9.4 per cent at Seat and 18 per cent at Skoda. Its Audi division posted a 3.2 per cent decline. Renault sales rose 8.9 per cent - 2.6 per cent at its main brand and a 30 per cent surge at Dacia.