French car sales hit 15-year low in 2013

PARIS (AFP) - The French auto market sank to its lowest level in 15 years last year with 1.79 million new cars sold and with only a hesitant rebound expected in 2014, data published Thursday showed.

Sales fell by five per cent in 2013, figures from CCFA manufacturers association said. Light utility vehicles sales fell by 4.4 per cent, it added.

"The 2013 vintage is to be forgotten," said auto market analyst Flavien Neuvy of Cetelem credit company.

According to CCFA, sales were at their worst in the early part of 2013, following on from a bad 2012 but recovered gradually in the second half.

In December, sales rose 9.4 per cent, perhaps boosted by consumers anticipating a sales tax hike that kicked in on January 1.

French automakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault made up 53 per cent of the French car market last year, with Renault's Clio IV the best sold model.

Renault sales inched up 0.8 per cent over the year, while PSA Peugeot Citroen sold 7.7 per cent fewer vehicles.

The world's biggest carmaking group, Volkswagen saw sales in France fall by 8.1 per cent while sales by US group General Motors plummeted by 15.8 per cent and Ford lost 17.3 per cent.

Toyota sales rose 5.5 per cent and Fiat, which completed a merger with Chrysler on Wednesday, rose 2.4 per cent.

"We've touched the bottom of the pool and the market will remain stable in 2014," a CCFA spokesman said. Car sales in France ended the year at the same level as in 1997.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spanish car sales increased by 3.3 per cent in 2013 while sales in Italy lost 7.1 per cent.