Crisis-hit French car market plummets to lowest level since 1975

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The French automobile market collapsed by 25.5 percent to its lowest level in 46 years as result of the Covid health crisis, figures published on Friday reveal.

Some 1.65 million new passenger cars were put into circulation last year, up from 2.2 million in 2019, the Committee of French Automobile Manufacturers (CCFA) said.

"During the crises of the 1990s or 2000s, we never fell below 1.7 million of units passed," added CCFA communications director François Roudier.

The sector was impacted by the closure of concessions and factories during the first lockdown in the spring, and more generally of the wait-and-see attitude of consumers against the backdrop of a serious economic crisis.

Deliveries collapsed by 72 percent in March and almost 90 percent in April, before recovering during the summer and better withstanding the second lockdown.

In December, the number of registrations was down almost 12 percent, compared to an excellent December 2019.

Downward trend

During the year, French manufacturers PSA (Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel) and Renault held up slightly better than the market, but their deliveries were nevertheless cut by 25.1 percent and 24.9 percent respectively, compared to 2019.

Foreign manufacturers have seen their yearly registrations contract on average by just over 26 percent. The leading importer by volume remains the Volkswagen group (with Audi, Seat, Skoda, etc.) which, nonetheless, performed less well than the trend.

Year-end results are less bleak than expected thanks to "a lot of work from dealers, dealerships, networks," added Roudier.

The auto industry as a whole is expected to rebound in the coming years, but the return to pre-crisis registration levels is not expected until 2025.

(with wires)