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France March 2019: Skoda (+15.8%), Dacia (+13.8%), Citroen (+9.7%) and Opel (+8.5%) strong in 6th market decline in past 7 months

Skoda is the healthiest carmaker in the French Top 20 in March with overall sales up 15.8% and private deliveries up 16.6%. Picture

This article has been updated with the Top 35 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales.

The French new car market is back into negative territory for the 6th time in the past 7 months at -2.3% year-on-year in March to 225.818 units, enough to tilt the YTD volume into negative also at -0.6% to 553.335. Worse news: the market isn’t getting any healthier, with private sales underperforming at -7.4% to 101.787 or 45.1% share vs. 47.6% in March 2018. Company sales soar 16.4% and leases are up 2.3%, meaning fleet sales are at 22.3% share vs. 20.1% a year ago. Tactical sales fall slightly faster than the market in March at 30.4% share vs. 30.5% a year ago. Over the First Quarter, “healthy sales” lose ground at -2.8% to 377.489 and 68.2% share vs. 69.8% a year ago: private sales are down -4.9% to 255.917 and 46.2% share vs. 48.3% over Q1 2018 while company sales gain a slim +2% to 121.572 and 22% vs. 21.4%. In contrast, tactical sales gain 3.1% to 171.467 and 31% share vs. 29.9% a year ago, with sales to rental companies up +2.3% to 75.242 and 13.6% share vs. 13.2% and dealership sales/self-registrations scoring the largest gain at +3.8% to 96.225.

The C5 Aircross breaks into the Top 20 for the first time, helping Citroen up 9.7%.

As is the tradition, Renault (-6.6%) backloads its sales every Quarter, holding 20.3% of the market in March which enables the carmaker to overtake Peugeot (-8.1%) in the YTD order at 18.4% vs. 17.8%. However both carmakers take a painful hit in the private sales channel: -21.1% for Renault (only 35.9% of its sales mix) and -12.6% for Peugeot (41.9%), both well below the private sales national average. Citroen (+9.7%) confirms it is on the mend after hitting lowest-ever shares a little more than a year ago, with strong private sales up 6.7% to 46% share. Dacia (+13.8%) posts the only double-digit gain in the Top 14 and is back up to #4 for the first time since last October, but ranks #3 in the private sales channel with 11.439 units (-4.5%) below only Renault and Peugeot but above Citroen. Tripling demo sales, an unusual event for the brand, are responsible for Dacia’s surge this month. Volkswagen (+8.3%) is relegated to #5 and behind a strong gain hides in fact sales artificially boosted with demos up 38% and short-term rentals up 74%, while private deliveries drop -10.8% to just 6.603. Opel (+8.5%) is the other stronghold in the Top 10 thanks to excellent private sales up 31% to 49.4% share while Toyota (+0.2%) is stable but down to #7 with a 65% private sales ratio well above the national average.

Opel Corsa sales surge 57.6% year-on-year in France in March.

Fiat (-11.2%) despite private sales down just -2.4% to 44% share, Ford (-9.8%) also in spite of sturdy private deliveries up 4.4%  and Mercedes (-4.4%) on the other hand under-perform, even though the latter remains #1 premium above Audi (+0.2%) now recovered and BMW (-15%) in difficulty. Audi leads in the private channel at 2.365 units (-4.4%) and BMW is best-seller with leases at 1.305 (+46.6%). Below, Skoda (+15.8%, private +16.6%) Hyundai (+14.3% but private -5.6%) and Seat (+10.1% but private -6.6%) impress with double-digit gains, Volvo (-4.4%) is unusually down but posts strong private sales (+14.7%) and leases (+38.6%). Tesla (+418.7%) surfs on Model 3 deliveries (see further down) like almost everywhere else in Europe this month while Alpine (+1022.2%) continues to progress with over 300 units sold in March and 850 so far in 2019 – 85% of which are private sales – outselling Jaguar and Porsche.

The Renault Clio scores an outstanding 19.2% year-on-year gain.

Model-wise, the Renault Clio (+19.3%) is in excellent shape, widening the gap with its archenemy the Peugeot 208 (-7.4%) to over 6.000 units in March and 8.650 YTD. The simultaneous arrival in market of the Clio V and 208 II later this year will make this battle even more intense. The Clio also wins in the private sales channels with a 16.3% surge to 6.6% share, taking the advantage over the Dacia Sandero (6%) both this month and YTD. The Renault Captur (+9.4%) is back on the French podium for the first time since last August, eclipsing the Citroen C3 (+3.7%) and Dacia Sandero (+17.7%) all very sturdy. The Dacia Duster (+11.5%) is up two spots on February to its highest ranking since last August at #8 (it ranks #4 with private buyers), followed closely by the Citroen C3 Aircross (+44%) but all remaining Top 10 contenders are down in the double-digits and they happen to all be Peugeots: the 308 (-22.3%), 3008 (-14.8%) and 2008 (-10.9%) all fall flat this month.

The Tesla Model 3 is now inside the French Top 50.

Lurking just outside the Top 10 at #11, the VW Polo (+16.6%) has wrangled the title of #1 foreigner off the Toyota Yaris (+27.5%) at #13 ahead of the Opel Corsa (+57.6%) and Ford Fiesta (+19.8%) both enjoying outstanding progressions. The DS 7 Crossback (+160%), Ford Focus (68.4%), Mercedes A-Class (+66.3%), Fiat Panda (+54%), Peugeot 508 (+48.2%), VW T-Roc (+46.1%) and Opel Crossland X (+39.8%) also shine in the Top 50. The Citroen C5 Aircross is the most popular new launch in France, breaking into the monthly Top 20 for the first time at #19, already outselling one of its competitors the Renault Kadjar (-14.3%). The Citroen C4 Spacetourer (#34) and Peugeot Rifter (#41) follow but the big news among newcomers is the thunderous arrival of the Tesla Model 3 inside the French Top 50 at #42 with 1.153 sales and 0.5% share, up 50 spots on last month and already the 2nd best-selling EV in the country below the Renault Zoe at #37 and 1.534 (-31.7%).

Previous month: France February 2019: Citroen (+20.1%), Opel (+24.5%), fleet and rental sales pull market up 2.1%

One year ago: France March 2018: Private sales, VW, Dacia pull market up 2.2%

Full March 2019 Top 35 brands, Top 265 models and Top 10 private sales below.

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