French Auto Sales Down in March 2012 image

The Frech auto sales fell in March for the fifth consecutive month year-on-year, Peugeot and Citroen loosing ground in front of Volkswagen on their home territory.

Sales were down 23.5% to 197,033 vehicles, with light commercial vehicle sales falling 12.2% last month to 36,493, overall light vehicle sales down 21.9%.

“This decline is spectacular but it was expected,” said Flavien Neuvy, head of credit provider Cetelem’s autos research unit. “We think nevertheless that the bulk of the drop for the year has been done in the first quarter.”

Peugeot Citroen, Europe’s second-biggest automaker after Volkswagen, saw a decline of 33% to 59,290 in March, while Renault suffered a 30% drop to 42,908 units. On the other hand Volkswagen group’s French new car sales fell a more modest 11.9% as it won business from rivals with aggressive pricing on models such as the Polo subcompact. For the first quarter Volkswagen’s market share rose 14% from 11.2% last year, while PSA and Renault each shed more than 2 percentage points.

“Overall, the auto market is falling a bit more than people had predicted,” said Renault’s commercial director for France, Bernard Cambier. “But generally, we remain fixed on a decline of the order of 10 percent in the market in 2012.”