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French automobile sales drop 5 percent, hit lowest level in 15 years in 2013

PARIS--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 percent in 2013, figures from CCFA manufacturers association said. Light utility vehicles sales fell by 4.4 percent, 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 percent, perhaps boosted by consumers anticipating a sales tax hike that kicked in on Jan. 1.

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

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

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

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

“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 percent in 2013 while sales in Italy lost 7.1 percent.

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