The broken European car market picked up speed in January for the fifth month running, with a 5.5-percent increase in sales, trade data showed on Tuesday.
Stricken French carmaker Peugeot Citroen, expected to announce on Tuesday the arrival of Chinese state group Dongfeng and the French state as shareholders, raised its sales in January by 7.4 percent.
French car makers improved their positions in Europe, on a 12-month comparison, but the French market was almost flat in the month.
The Peugeot group, second-biggest in Europe after German VW, pushed up slightly its share of the market to 11.7 percent from 11.5 percent.
The auto market in the European Union is still suffering from multiple blows from the financial crisis and then the eurozone debt crisis, and deep structural reforms in several countries, the latest figures from the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association showed.
In January the total number of new cars registered fell short of one million, at 935,640.
That was the second-lowest level for a month of January since this series of statistics began in 2003.
In December, sales had risen by 13.3 percent to total 906,294, after increases of 1.2 percent in November, 4.7 percent in October and 5.4 percent in September.
The improvement in January was broadly based. The biggest increases of 7.6 percent were in Britain, where 154,562 cars were sold, and in Spain with 53,436 sales.
In Germany, which is the biggest car market in Europe, registrations rose by 7.2 percent to 205,996, followed by a 3.2-percent rise in Italy to 117,802.
France lagged behind. The market rose by only 0.5 percent to total 125,454 vehicles.
But the two big French carmakers, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault increased their sales sharply and also their market share across the European Union.
Peugeot Citroen raised sales by 7.4 percent to 109,257.
Renault, which also builds the Dacia range of cheap cars, boosted sales by 13.4 percent to 86,452.
This was the third-biggest increase of all manufacturers after Japanese groups Mazda with an increase of 34.9 percent and Toyota with 16.8 percent.
Renault raised its market share to 9.2 percent from 8.6 in January of 2013.
Dacia again pulled the Renault group, with a rise of 38.9 percent in sales, raising its market share to 3.0 percent from 2.3 percent over 12 months.
By far the biggest sales in Europe were achieved by the VW Group, spanning the Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda brands, and totalling 237,538 sales.