FRANKFURT, Feb 18 (Reuters) - European car sales rose 5.2 percent to 967.778 vehicles in January, lifted by demand for compact cars in all major markets and even in former crisis countries like Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece, industry data showed on Tuesday.
Cars sold under the Volkswagen, Peugeot and Renault brands saw January sales in the European Union and European Free Trade Association trading bloc rise 7.6 percent, 8.8 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, according to data from the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA).
In Italy, the region's fourth-biggest market, sales grew 3.2 percent, while sales in Ireland rose 32.8 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.
Greece posted a 15.4 percent rise, while Portugal, also a victim of the euro zone's debt crisis, saw 31.8 percent growth in car registrations in January.
Sales at Renault Group jumped 13 percent, boosted by a 38.1 percent surge in registrations at its no-frills Dacia brand.
Germany's Volkswagen Group, Europe's No. 1 by volume which also owns Seat, Bentley and Lamborghini, posted an 8.2 percent rise in sales, helped by a 10.3 percent rise in registrations at its value brand Skoda and an 8.5 percent gain at its premium brand Audi.
Toyota branded vehicles were up 15.2 percent while rival General Motors saw sales of its Opel and Vauxhall branded vehicles slide 7.8 percent even as sales of Chevrolet vehicles rose 8.9 percent. Ford saw new passenger car registrations rise 8.8 percent during the period.
January marked the fifth consecutive month of growth in the European Union. All the major markets posted growth, with Britain and Spain both up 7.6 percent, Germany sales rising 7.2 percent, while Italy and France grew 3.2 percent and 0.5 respectively.