As sales continue to tumble in Europe, WardsAuto/AutomotiveCompass has slashed its 2013 production forecast for the region by more than 500,000 units.

Light-vehicle sales through February in all of Europe were down 9.3% in 2013 from year-ago, according to WardsAuto data, and early reports on March’s results indicate the shortfall could worsen.

The one bright spot among the five biggest markets, which together account for nearly 70% of Europe sales, was the U.K. Two-month 2013 sales in the region were up 10.3%. Deliveries in Russia rose 3.1%, but growth is flattening after regular double-digit gains in 2012.

The other three – France, Germany and Italy – are tracking downward. The biggest market, Germany, reportedly posted a March decline of 17%, worsening its 10.0% drop in the first two months of 2013.

WardsAuto/AC is forecasting full-year production in Europe of 19.0 million units, 2.2% below 2012’s 19.4 million and the lowest since the recession-battered total of 16.9 million in 2009.

The brunt of the cutbacks are in Western Europe, where output is forecast at 12.0 million units, 5.4% below 2012. There was some negligible paring at Eastern Europe factories, but 2013 builds are projected to grow 3.8% from last year.

The deepest production cuts were in Germany, France and Spain, with major manufacturers BMW, Daimler, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Volkswagen all taking hits. Lower sales on the continent will hold U.K. output flat compared with 2012, despite rising sales in the region.

Increased production in Eastern Europe will occur mostly in Russia, as auto makers increase capacity to source a higher mix of local demand. Output is forecast to climb 8.3% in Russia to 2.25 million units in 2013. Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan also are expected to see strong growth this year.

The slowdown in Europe is impacting production in other regions, as well, especially plants in Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the U.S.

Although many have significant manufacturing footprints in Europe, Japanese auto makers still supply a major portion of their product for the continent from Japan. In North America, a large share of BMW and Mercedes builds in the U.S. is exported to Europe, and nearly one-third of Volkswagen’s 2012 production of 605,000 units in Mexico was shipped to Europe.

General Motors this month announced a short-term plant closure at a Korean plant that supplies many of the Chevrolets sold in Europe. Also, Hyundai and Kia, although now sourcing the majority of European markets from local plants, still import a significant portion of inventory from Korea.

hstoddard@wardsauto.com