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U.S. brands tap European auto recovery as Volkswagen left behind

Cars are lined up for sale at a Ford dealer in Lakewood, Colorado in this September 4, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

PARIS (Reuters) - European car sales rose 13.7 percent in November, according to industry data published on Tuesday, with U.S. brands recording strong gains as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) continued to pay the price of its diesel emissions test-rigging scandal.

Registrations rose to 1.12 million cars last month from 989,758 a year earlier, the Brussels-based Association of European Carmakers said, with Ford (F.N) and General Motors' (GM.N) Opel among the best performers.

Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker by sales, saw its core brand market share tumble to 12.2 percent from 13.5 percent, as sales edged just 3.1 percent higher, underperforming the market. The German group as a whole posted a 3.9 percent gain.

The VW brand, struggling to contain the damage after being exposed in September for cheating U.S. tests for toxic diesel emissions, suffered a more marked 20 percent sales decline in Britain, according to data release on Dec. 4.

The broader European auto recovery is set to continue into 2016 after an 8.6 percent expansion in January-November, Ernst & Young analyst Anil Valsan said.

"The car market is expected to remain on the growth track driven by the positive economic environment, low financing costs, low fuel prices, high discounts and some remaining pent-up demand," Valsan said.

"However, growth is expected to be slower, with interest rates likely to edge up."

Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Opel all saw November sales rise more than 18 percent, with GM's European arm helped by the recently launched Astra compact.

Sales by France's Renault (RENA.PA) advanced 15.1 percent, while domestic rival PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA) rose 12.8 percent, with a buoyant Peugeot brand tempered by a weaker Citroen performance.

(Reporting by Laurence Frost. Editing by Jane Merriman)