General Motors saw a sharp drop in sales in Europe
New car sales in Europe fell by 14.5% in October, the sixth monthly fall in a row, said the European carmakers' association, the Acea.
Car sales in Ireland and Spain were the worst-affected, plummeting 54.6% and 40% respectively, in October.
Even in the new EU member states, once a source of growth, overall sales fell 3.3%, despite a 12.3% rise in Poland.
With demand falling fast, manufacturers are temporarily halting production at some plants to cut their costs.
Brake on sales
In western Europe, the number of cars sold totalled 1,034,955, 15.5% lower than the same month last year.
Austria was the only western European country which posted a growth in car sales - up 4%.
The Spanish figures were the worst since 1995, while the UK and Italy saw sales drop more than 15%.
The decline was less steep in France and Germany, where registrations fell by 7.4% and 8.2% respectively.
Acea's cumulative figures for the European market, over January to October, show a fall of 5.4%, which has been blamed on the financial and economic crisis.
Figures show that the worst-hit manufacturer, with sales down 49.4%, was Chrysler.
General Motors saw sales drop 25.2%, while Volkswagen's sales figures had the smallest fall, down 7.6%.
General Motors said that, because of difficult financial circumstances, it would seek governmental support in foreign countries where it has significant operations and holdings, such as Germany.
GM is demanding state aid from five German states where it manufactures its European brand, Opel (which sells under the Vauxhall badge in the UK).
"We want to safeguard the competitiveness of Opel in this globally difficult situation," said Opel managing director Hans Demant.
He said German politicians were prepared to consider prompt support measures.
General Motors added that the German state guarantees would only be used for product development and industrial facilities in the region and would not be used outside of Europe.