MILAN -- New car sales in Europe are continuing to fall for the seventh straight month, dropping by 4 per cent in March.

The European carmakers' association ACEA, based in Brussels, said 1.72 million new cars were sold last month, down from 1.79 million in March 2018. Italy led all five top markets in decline, with a double-digit drop.

The Volkswagen group gained market share, capturing 23.2 per cent of sales with a mild 1-per cent drop. Shares of its luxury brands were mixed, with Audi up by 1.7 per cent and Porsche plummeting 19 per cent.

French carmaker Renault was alone among mass carmakers in increasing sales, up 2 per cent, on the strength of its lower-priced Dacia marquee.

German luxury carmaker Daimler's sales slipped by 13.3 per cent. BMW sales were down by 2.2 per cent.