PARIS (AFP) - Major car-making countries reported huge plunges in auto sales on Monday, with France and particularly heavyweight Japan hit hard by the deepening world manufacturing crisis. In Japan, car, truck and bus purchases dropped 32.4 percent in February from a year earlier to 218,212, the steepest decline for that month since 1974, the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association reported. "The downturn in the Japanese market is accelerating," said Mamoru Kato, auto analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Center. "With the economic crisis, people are worried about their jobs and pay cuts. People are more cautious about spending and consumption is cooling, as reflected in the new car sales figure," he said. Japan's motor manufacturers have suffered a dramatic reversal in fortunes in recent months as their exports have suffered from sharply falling demand in recession-hit markets in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Sales of new cars in France plummeted 13.1 percent in February compared to sales in the same month last year, the CCFA French automobile manufacturers' group said. Auto makers employ one in 10 members of France's workforce. French brands Citroen, Peugeot and Renault were hardest hit, losing 13.3 percent of the market. Sales of foreign cars dropped 12.9 percent last month. It was one of the worst showings in recent months for French car sales after the devastating drops of 15.8 percent in December and 14 percent in November. And new car registrations in Spain, Europe's third-biggest auto sector, continued their sharp decline, plunging 48.8 percent to 62,107 units in February compared to the same time last year, figures showed on Monday. During the first two months of the year a total of 121,492 new cars were registered, a drop of almost half from the 223,036 registered in the year-ago period, the Spanish automakers' association ANFAC said in a statement. Auto makers are among the companies most dramatically hit by the economic downturn, which has spread from a crisis on financial markets to hit manufacturing. Car companies have announced millions of job cuts in recent months and governments have rolled out special measures to try to cushion the blow to manufacturing. President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced plans to lend PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault three billion euros (3.9 billion dollars) each to help them weather the economic downturn. Spain's socialist government has also said it will spend four billion euros to help the auto sector. In another major auto producing nation, Germany, the government is mulling a request from General Motors (GM) for billions of euros in aid for its stricken subsidiary Opel, Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Monday. The head of GM Europe, Carl-Peter Forster, has said that the company needs 3.3 billion euros Europe-wide to survive.