French auto group Renault reported on Friday a 6.3 percent fall in its global sales last year to 2.55 million vehicles due to an 18 percent collapse of its sales in Europe, but said it hopes for a rebound in 2013.
The company's shares soared as investors also cheered the fact that sales outside Europe rose by 9.1 percent to account for more than half of the total for the first time ever.
Renault sales chief Jerome Stoll said the company expected this year a "rise in sales and market share" on all markets including Europe, without citing figures.
The carmaker's shares leapt by 4.36 percent to close at 43.60 euros in Paris while the CAC 40 index was essentially flat overall.
The performance of cars sold with the specific Renault label fell by 6.0 percent to 2.1 million units.
But sales by the low-cost subsidiary Dacia rose by 4.8 percent to 359,800.
"The group’s international expansion strategy is bringing results," said Stoll in referring to the record sales outside Europe, with Brazil and Russia now Renault's number two and three markets.
This success could not totally make up for the drop in European sales, he noted, and said in the tough market conditions the company sought primarily to defend its margins.
Barclays Bourse trader Renaud Murail said Renault's sales drop was not a surprise to investors as the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association had announced earlier this week that new car registrations in the European Union had declined by 8.2 percent in 2012 to reach the lowest level since 1995.
"Given the sluggishness of the European market, investors are saluting the fact that Renault -- contrary to its competitor PSA Peugeot Citroen -- is less dependant on the Old Continent," he said.
Murail said synergies generated from Renault's alliance with Nissan should also help it bounce back.
He said it was also reassuring that Renault's restructuring plans are not generating political and social friction, unlike the confrontation sparked by Peugeot's downsizing effort.
Renault announced this week that it intended to cut 7,500 jobs in France, or about 15 percent of its workforce, by 2016.
However it said most of those losses would come from natural departures with the rest hopefully from the broadening of an early retirement programme.
It said that no factory was targeted for closure and plans to hold talks with workers on boosting competitiveness.
This the latest poor news for the French auto industry
Peugeot intends to cut more than 11,000 jobs in France between 2011 and 2014, with the company offering voluntary departure packages and seen as likely needing to resort to forced departures to meet its goal.
Plans to close a plant outside of Paris have bruised the company, and it was forced to seek government help to keep its financing arm from collapsing.
Renault is counting on the release on a number of new models to secure its recovery, including the electric car Zoe.
The French state, which owns 15 percent of Renault, pushed the company to lean on Nissan to expand production in France as it scales down output.
French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Friday he had a discussion with Carlos Ghosn, who is chief executive of both Renault and Nissan, on the subject.
Montebourg said in an interview on BFMTV and RMC radio that he told Ghosn "I want ... that Nissan come to the rescue to French factories and put to work the French production lines."
Montebourg said the response was positive, but Stoll declined to confirm Nissan would manufacture vehicles in France or any of Renault's factories in Europe.
Montebourg had highly public showdown last year with the world's top steelmaker ArcelorMittal, threatening to nationalise one of its plants if the company did not keep blast furnaces open.