AFP – French car sales picked up strongly in March after a grim year for the industry in 2013, but volumes remained low, trade data showed on Tuesday.
The figures showed that French carmakers, including struggling Peugeot, did well, but that sales by General Motors fell heavily reflecting a contested decision to withdraw the Chevrolet brand.
The number of vehicles sold rose by 8.9% from the level in March last year, against a background of a modest improvement of the state of the French economy, the committee of French automakers CCFA said.
New registrations totalled 179,871 vehicles.
In the first three months of the year, sales rose by 2.9% from the level in the same period of 2013.
In another sign that clouds over the European market are thinning, Spanish trade data showed that sales in Spain rose by 10.0% in March to 79,929 units, boosted by a government subsidy for the trading in of old cars.
In France, at the CCFA, Francois Roudier commented that the increase in French sales was big in percentage terms but that sales volumes were still at a low level. “We are still in crisis,” he said.
March was usually a good month for car sales and that the latest figure was at least 30,000 short of normal sales for the month.
The CCFA held to its forecast that sales would rise by 1.0% in the whole of this year, but remained cautious.
However, the two main French auto makers, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault did well.
Peugeot, emerging from severe financial problems and which has just completed a tie-up with Chinese automaker Dongfeng, raised its sales by 15.1%, and Renault by 20.6%.
Among foreign brands, BMW raised its sales in France by 5.1% followed by another German group VW with 4.6%.
Japanese Nissan, part of Renault, raised its sales by 3.8%, and Fiat of Italy by 3.5%.
But sales by German firm Mercedes fell by 7.0% and by South Korean Hyundai by 35.8%.
US group General Motors suffered from a big fall of sales of its Chevrolet brand, marking a 64.5% fall.
In December the group announced that it would withdraw this brand from Europe from 2015.
That decision has caused the French national council of automakers, CNPA, to take legal action against Chevrolet in France for the “brutality and disloyalty” of the announcement, and for not respecting a period of notice, the CNPA told AFP confirming a report in the Parisien newspaper.
GM decided to withdraw the Chevrolet brand so as not to compete with its own Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe.
But the CNPA alleges that the manner and the timing of the decision has prejudiced 150 dealerships which are unable to trade normally.