French car sales fall 14% in first quarter: trade data

Sales of new cars in France fell by 14 percent to 525,693 vehicles during the first quarter, the slowest start in five years, trade data showed Tuesday.

Figures from the association of French car manufacturers association showed that the drop accelerated in March, dropping by 16.4 percent on a 12-month comparison to 165,244 vehicles.

French car manufacturers were harder hit than foreign brands in the January - March period, with sales down 14.4 percent overall to 291.646 vehicles.

Renault saw its car sales drop 11.1 percent to 134,538 vehicles and PSA Peugeot Citroen by 16.9 percent to 156,720 vehicles in the first quarter.

Sales of foreign cars dropped 13.4 percent to 234,047 vehicles in January through March, based on car registration data.

Car sales have been hit hard as French economic growth has stalled.

After a 0.3 percent contraction in gross domestic product in the final quarter of 2012 due in large part to the first decline in household purchasing power since 1984, the French economy is expected to stagnate at the beginning of this year.

Data from the car manufacturers association also showed that French households were feeling the pinch as low-cost vehicles accounted for 52 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 41 percent in 18 European markets on average.

Hi-end and luxury cars accounted for just 4 percent of French car sales, compared to 11 percent for European markets on average.