French car sales up 8.1 percent in March

Despite the global slowing of the beleaguered car industry, sales of new cars in France jumped 8.1 percent in March compared to the same month in 2008.


AFP -  Sales of new cars in France jumped 8.1 percent in March compared to the same month last year, the French carmakers' union CCFA said Wednesday, giving a much-needed boost to the ailing industry.

Seasonally adjusted sales however were down 1.8 percent over the 12 months.

The CCFA said sales at PSA Peugeot Citroen, which ousted chief executive Christian Streiff on Sunday, were up 15.9 percent, while Renault rose 12.8 percent.

The gains came despite tough conditions for the global auto industry, which has seen a sharp drop in demand linked to the economic crisis in recent months.

Fiat sales in France rose by 25.1 percent and Volkswagen by 15.3 percent. But other foreign groups lost out -- GM Europe sales were down by 18.2 percent, BMW fell by 30.5 percent and Toyota-Lexus dropped by 4.9 percent.

In an interview with France's RTL radio station, Renault chief executive Patrick Pelata said the car company was "doing better" despite the crisis and its sales of small cars in Europe were now almost at the same level as in 2008.

"In a way we have arrived, we believe, at the lowest point of the crisis and the company has stabilised," he said, adding that the firm was "well placed at this juncture" to take advantage of state programmes to boost the industry.

France has lent Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen 3.0 billion euros (4.0 billion dollars) each to help them in the crisis in exchange for a promise to retain French jobs and assembly lines -- a deal that has sparked accusations of protectionism.

Other European governments have introduced measures to stimulate demand for new cars, including subsidies for scrapping old cars. The United States has launched a root-and-branch reform of its embattled auto industry.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning