MADRID – Several industry organizations here say fears the end of Spain’s 2000E Plan scrappage program and 2-point hike in the value-added tax would take the bottom out from under the new-car market are coming to fruition, as August sales declined 23.8% from year-ago.

Last month’s performance follows up a 24.2% market dip in July.

“The most worrisome for us is that sales through the (individual-customer) channel decreased 36.9% in August, the second consecutive fall after 14 months of continuous increase,” says German Lopez, president of ANIACAM, the Spanish association of auto importers.

“With such a low sales level in the (retail) channel, it is very difficult for an auto dealer to be profitable,” adds Lopez.

Although the rental- and commercial-fleet (or executive-car) channels continue to post increases, they do so at low volumes, he adds.

ANIACAM says car sales totaled 44,979 units in August. The tally includes 29,152 (down 35%) through the retail channel, 2,203 (up 77,1%) via the rental-fleet channel and 13,624 (up 15%) to commercial-fleet customers.

The gains in the rental and commercial channels are due to pent-up demand caused by unusually low renewal rates over the past year, Lopez says.

Juan A. Sanchez, president of GANVAM, a Spanish association that represents more than 2,400 auto dealers and 3,000 auto traders, predicts the monthly sales contraction could reach a 40% rate, threatening some 10,000 jobs in the car sales and distribution network.

“From the beginning of the current economic and financial crisis, more than 30,000 auto salesmen jobs have been eliminated in Spain, (wiping out about) 10% of the auto dealers,” says Sanchez.

Luis Valero, director of ANFAC, the Spanish association of auto makers manufacturing in Spain, forecasts a 30% decline in sales from like-2009 levels during the second half of 2010.

Valero cites Spain’s debt-plagued economy and high unemployment – estimated at 4.6 million jobless, as main culprits dragging down auto sales.

“All these factors force Spaniards to delay their acquisition decisions, waiting for better times with bigger salaries and more stability in their jobs,” he says.

Showroom traffic has dropped dramatically, notes Antonio Romero-Haupold, president of FACONAUTO, the Spanish association of official auto dealers.

“If we do not find a solution for this situation, it will be unavoidable to reduce the size of the auto distribution networks, and in the medium term a third of the current showrooms will be closed,” he says.

The industry has been calling for new subsidies to prime the market, but Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian has turned a cold shoulder, pointing out most other European countries also have ended their retail incentives.

“The Spanish car market has been running well during recent months, (similar to) a sick person who receives a drug therapy and comes back to show the same symptoms when the drug administration is interrupted,” Sebastian says.