January 28, 2015 at 4:00 PM

European car sales last year rose for the first time since before the financial crisis, according to data published by the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association. The figures end a run of annual declines that took a heavy toll on most manufacturers.

Passenger vehicle registrations in the EU rose 4.7% to 951,329 in December alone, driven by strong demand in Western Europe. Overall, new car registrations rose to 12.6 million vehicles last year in the 28-nation bloc, up 5.7% from 2014.

In the lead up to Christmas, registrations in Spain rose 21%, mainly due to government subsidies and a rebound in private consumption, while the UK shot 8.7% higher. In Germany, Europe's biggest car market, registrations jumped 6.7%.

Spain (up by over 18%) and the UK (9.3%) were the best performing of the markets across 2014, supported by more muted growth in Italy, at 4.2%, and Germany (2.9%). Elsewhere,Portugal notched up growth in passenger vehicle registrations of more than a third across 2014. Ireland ended the year up almost 30%, while Greece rose 21%.

In a further boost to the industry moving forward, car manufacturers have already started forecasting moderate growth in European sales this year.

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