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So far this year, increased car sales in the U.K. and Italy -- two of the biggest markets in Europe -- along with a rising tide across Central and Eastern Europe, have contributed to a 1.9-percent increase in car consumption across the Atlantic. While the U.S. has traditionally been the world leader in units of vehicles sold, with some 16 million leaving dealer lots in 2006, that might change come the end of this year.

New car sales in Europe were up again in February, but the old aphorism "a rising tide lifts all boats" definitely did not apply. The best boats to be in belonged to Fiat and Volkswagen, with the Fiat Group leading the way with an 11.5 percent increase in sales year-over-year. The Fiat brand posted a stellar 18-percent gain, boosted by the new Grande Punto (pictured) and other new models, and by a strong Italian market. Volkswagen group's updated model lineup drove a 9.1-percent increa