Monthly decline in French car sales deepened to 18 per cent in December, with Renault and Peugeot losing ground as an end-of-year subsidy hangover blighted demand for their smaller vehicles.
Europe's second-biggest auto market logged 187,653 car registrations, accelerating its year-on-year drop from November's 7.6 per cent slide, France's CCFA automakers association said yesterday. Full-year sales fell 2.1 per cent.
December's decline was accentuated by a sales surge at the end of 2010, when consumers rushed to showrooms before the expiry of government-funded subsidies on trade-ins, CCFA spokesman Francois Roudier said.
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"Still, the market is showing a decline in morale," he said. "Registrations in the first quarter are also likely to reflect the lower orders automakers have been reporting."
Paris-based PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest automaker after Volkswagen, posted a 29 per cent plunge in December sales, the CCFA said. Smaller domestic rival Renault recorded a 28 per cent drop.
"Orders were down about 55 per cent in December, which leads us to expect a car market contraction of 17 per cent in the first quarter," Renault France sales chief Bernard Cambier said by telephone.
The automaker is forecasting an 8 per cent decline in the French car market this year and a 3 per cent gain in light commercial vehicle deliveries for a 7 per cent fall overall. While the subsidy withdrawal hurt small-car demand across the industry last year, the French automakers also suffered from ageing models in the key subcompact category. The Renault Clio and Peugeot 207 are both due for updates later this year.
Peugeot's full-year market share fell 1 percentage point to 31.4 per cent, while Renault's slipped 2 points to 24.7 per cent, as both carmakers underperformed at home.
Fiat's French registrations fell 14 per cent in December — less than the market — while VW bucked the slide with a 15 per cent gain, led by a 21 per cent surge at luxury unit Audi. Hyundai's Kia brand also resisted, with a 12 per cent gain.