Today we inaugurate a new series on BestSellingCarsBlog: This was years ago…. Where I focus on one year in one country and reflect on the changes that have affected that specific market since. We start with France 50 years ago in 1963. At the time 909,263 new passenger cars found a buyer in France, a whopping 15% above the 1962 figure and over 5 times the sales figure of 1950… An additional 138,377 Light Commercial Vehicles were registered that year, and I even have an exclusive LCV models ranking as well! Exciting times indeed.
Brand-wise, it’s a familiar face on top of the sales charts: Renault with 33.5% market share, but the #2 is Citroen with 29.2%, roughly double the market share it captures at home nowadays and way above Peugeot (16.4%) which would later buy it out. Simca is just behind at 15.7% while Panhard concludes a Top 5 100% French at a much more modest 2.9%, in line with its premium status.
Foreign brands grab 14% of the French market (vs. over 50% today) with Ford Germany leading the charge at #6 and 2.7% above Fiat and Ford UK. Adding up Ford Germany, UK and US subsidiaries, at the time with distinct ranges, brings it to just under 5% share. Notice also the presence of a whole range of American brands, remnants of a golden age already long past at the time: Plymouth is #30, Buick #33, Dodge #36, Oldsmobile #38 and Mercury #39.
Model-wise, the Renault 4 had launched two years before and was the country’s best-seller as early as for its first full year in market in 1962. It confirms in 1963 with 141,126 sales and an imposing 15% market share, above the Renault 8 at 13.9% and the legendary Citoen 2CV at 13.2%. Note the Renault 4 sales figure includes a few of the long forgotten Renault 3, a “low cost” version of the model of which only 2,562 units would be produced.
The best-selling Peugeot comes in 4th place: the 404 sells 101,924 units for a very reasonable 10.8% share, more than double what the 208 manages today. Notice also the Citroen DS/ID at #7 with 57,510 units and 6.1%, a significant performance given its price tag at the time, two Simcas inside the Top 10 and the Panhard PL17 knocking on the Top 10’s door at #11 with 26,609 sales and 2.8%, virtually all sales of the brand that year.
The Ford Taunus 12M is the most popular foreign model at #13 and 1.7% share, followed closely by the Ford Cortina/Zephyr at #14. There are 5 additional foreigners inside the Top 20, including the Opel Kadett at #19 and VW “Coccinelle” (French for Beetle) at #20.
In the LCV ranking, the Citroen 2CV “Fourgonette” is the best-seller with 28,768 sales followed by the Renault 4 Fourgonette at 21,238 and the legendary Renault Estafette at 18,733. Notice also the Citroen Type H at #5 with 11.7% share and the Renault Galion at #7 and 4.9%.
More pictures, 1963 Top 30 models, Top 17 All-LCV and Top 56 All-brands below.