German car sales rose in January, official data showed Monday, but experts warned that the auto industry still faced a tough year ahead.

A total of 213,553 new cars took to the roads in Germany last month, the KBA federal transport authority said, a 19.1-percent increase on a year earlier.

The surge was however mainly down to the comparison effect with an extremely weak January 2023 when expiring subsidies cratered electric car sales.

E-car purchases had soared at the end of 2022 as customers raced to take advantage of clean energy subsidies before they expired, and demand has since cooled.

The electric auto sector suffered another blow in December when the government unexpectedly announced the end of an environmental bonus after a shock legal ruling forced Berlin to rethink its spending plans.

Just under 22,500 battery electric cars were newly registered in January, the second-lowest figure since January 2023, said EY analyst Constantin M. Gall.

"Customer confidence in the ramp-up of electromobility has been shaken," he said. "An increase in electric car purchases this year is extremely unlikely."

The VDIK car importers' federation said it expected new car registrations to total around 2.85 million in Germany this year, remaining below the pre-pandemic level of 2019 when 3.6 million cars were sold.

Given the current uncertainty in the electric car market, "many new car buyers will once again opt for a combustion engine, or delay a purchase decision," Gall predicted.