The continuing slump in Italy's car sales "can and must be reversed", Prime Minister Mario Monti insisted on Wednesday, without offering hope of any possible government support.

While the French government has stepped in to help ailing Peugeot (PEUP.PA), Italy has taken a hands-off approach as its auto industry has endured Europe's five-year sales decline against a backdrop of the euro zone debt crisis and state austerity measures.

"Italian industry in particular has suffered for some time in this situation in which the car sector has slowly but surely become less competitive, but (the decline) has been underestimated," Monti said at the Italian Automotive Association conference in Rome.

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