PARIS – European car sales continued to reflect the region’s sagging economy in March, tumbling 10.3% to 1.3 million units and resulting in a first-quarter decline of 9.8%.

The U.K. again was the only major market to grow, as deliveries rose 7.4% year-on-year. The only other European countries showing positive results were Denmark, Estonia and Hungary.

The other major players all posted double-digit declines in March: Germany, 12.9%; Spain, 11.5%; Italy, 13.0%; and France, 14.6%.

However, as in February, some of Europe’s sickest economies showed relatively small declines.  Portugal was down only 0.3% and Greece fell 8.3%.

The ACEA auto makers’ industry association and other market-watchers continue to expect a full-year decline of about 5%, to 11.5 million units, meaning the steepest falloffs will end sometime later in the year. For sales to drop 5%, the European market would have to contract 3% over the next nine months.

Getting from here to there depends on confidence rising in the major markets, which is not assured.

“Not everyone lost their job during the crisis, but the climate created a loss of confidence that penalizes big investments like cars,” says R.L. Polk analyst Bertrand Rakoto.

High-volume auto makers continued battling for market share in March. The Citroen, Renault, Ford, Toyota, Peugeot and Volkswagen brands all lost share, while Opel, Hyundai, Honda, SEAT, Kia and Fiat saw gains. Fiat’s result narrowed the auto maker’s year-to-date sales slide to 0.2%.

Significant year-on-year gains were reported in the first quarter by Honda, up 16.3%; Rensult’s Dacia entry-level brand, up 14.9%; and luxury makes Jaguar and Land Rover, up 21.5% and 11.5%, respectively.