The bad economy looks to be getting deeper over in Europe. The latest evidence is German carmakers' desperate efforts to prop up badly-lagging sales. Last month, European discounts on German brands averaged 12.2 percent. And now, Mercedes-Benz is offering a 3000-euro ($3,900) trade-in incentive to customers.

Success of the discounts has been minimal at best. September car sales in Germany fell 11 percent despite the incentives. With 25 percent of Europe's car sales coming from the Germans, some expect the drop to also pull the entire continent's numbers down to 1993 levels.

"Germany's sales results are sending the signal that we're certainly not out of the woods, but are deep in the woods and aren't going to get out soon," Jonathon Poskitt, an analyst at LMC Automotive in Oxford, England, tells Automotive News Europe. "It looks like 2013 is going to be another difficult year."

And those monthly numbers are actually rosier than reality. Sales of discounted "zero-mile used vehicles," accounted for 33.5 percent of September sales in Germany. Zero-mile cars are created in a practice by German dealers in which new cars are licensed by the dealer, then sold as used at a more than 20-percent discount. It moves inventory off the lot, but is costly to dealers and manufacturers.

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