UPDATE 1-Italy car sales down 0.43% in August, industry body welcomes stabilisation

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MILAN, Sept 1 (Reuters) - New car sales in Italy fell slightly in August but industry association ANFIA welcomed signs that government incentives were helping the sector to stabilise after the coronavirus crisis caused steep falls in previous months.

Transport ministry data on Tuesday showed 88,801 vehicle registrations in August, a fall of just 0.43% from the previous year, while registrations in the first eight months of the year were down 38.9% to 809,655.

“For the first time since the beginning of the year, the Italian auto market was largely stable in August after the heavy double digit falls seen for five consecutive months between March and July,” ANFIA, the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry, said in a statement.

It welcomed increased government support for the sector and said it hoped to work with authorities to develop a packet of measures to be financed by the European Union Recovery Fund.

As part of a range of stimulus measures aimed at propping up key sectors of the economy hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Italian government is setting aside hundreds of millions of euros to support the auto sector.

Much of the support will be used to reinforce existing measures to encourage sales of state-of-the-art combustion engine cars as well as electric and hybrid vehicles with the aim of helping carmakers get through stocks of unsold vehicles.

Sales at Fiat Chrysler (FCA), the country’s largest automaker, fell 2.65% year-on-year in August. Its market share stood at 22.84% compared with 22.75% in July, according to Reuters calculations based on the ministry data. (Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro, James Mackenzie Editing by Alexandra Hudson)