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France March 2020: COVID-19 sends market down -72.2% to lowest March volume in over 60 years, Tesla in Top 10

France has been under strict lockdown since March 17.

09/04 update: Now with Top 305 All-models.

07/04 update: Now with model info for private and business channels.

01/04 update: Now with Top 80 models.

First European March results are here and as expected the losses are heavy, impacted by coronavirus lockdowns where car dealerships were ordered to close. As we anticipated a week ago, French new car sales sink -72.2% year-on-year in March to just 62.668 units. Looking at the sales evolution throughout the month, the first two weeks saw 54.993 registrations (-23%) with a peak of 6.403 on Saturday 14/03, then 3.195 on Monday 16/03, 1.304 on Tuesday 17/03 when new car deliveries were still authorised and 294 on Wednesday 18/03. Indeed strict lockdown measures were implemented in France at midday on Tuesday 17/03 and as a result an average of only 305 new vehicles were registered daily across the entire country after that date. 1.443 new vehicles were registered during the 6 days between 18 and 23/03 and 1.732 from 24 to 31/03. Over the second half of the month, private sales are down -95.6% and company sales down -89.7% as leasing deliveries were still possible in some rare cases.

French daily car sales in March 2020 by opening day. Source AAA Data.

A French market falling below 63.000 monthly units hasn’t been seen in 50 years, since August 1970 (46.791) exactly, a time when the Peugeot 204 was the best-seller in the country. Worse: in France March volumes are traditionally the highest all year alongside June (225.818 in March 2019, 231.110 in March 2018) and there are no recorded occurrences of lower March volumes in the past 60 years, as even in March 1960, 69.249 new cars were registered. Based on annual volumes and the weight of March within annual French sales, we estimate that March 2020 volumes are the lowest in France for the month since 1959, when roughly 61.000 units were registered at a time when the Renault Dauphine topped the charts.

The last time March sales were lower in France (1959), the Renault Dauphine was #1.

April will be worse, as the strict lockdown measures are in place until at least April 15, but with almost 500 new coronavirus deaths reported in France on March 31 alone bringing the total to 3.523, there’s already talk of extending the lockdown to May 4 to try and stabilise the infections curve. This means there could be almost no new car sales in France in April, something that hasn’t happened since World War II. The year-to-date tally is now down -34.1% or almost 189.000 sales to 364.677 units, with private sales hit even harder as expected at -42% for a record low 41% share. Company sales ex-self registrations but including long term leases resist a lot better at -17.9% to 25% share, while demo sales drop -31% to 17% share and short-term rentals crumble -39% to 13% share.

Third consecutive monthly win for the Peugeot 208 II.

Over in the brands ranking, first half sales have pretty much been frozen, handicapping carmakers that traditionally backload their month. Renault (-68.5%) however still manages to reclaim the top spot for the first time this year, distancing Peugeot (-69.5%) with the two manufacturers falling slightly less than the market. Citroen (-77.2%) on the other hand loses share to 8.6% and Toyota (-57%) leaps back up to the record 4th place it held in January. Dacia (-80.4%) is only up one spot to #5 thanks to an even steeper fall by Volkswagen (-81.2%) posting the worst result in the Top 8. Kia (-53.1%) delivers the smallest decline in the Top 9 and breaks into the French Top 10 for the first time in history at #7. It’s also the case for Tesla (+26.4%) up to a record #10 and the only brand in positive this month due to Model 3 sales that were only gearing up a year ago. Hyundai (-57.4%) is up 3 spots on February to #11, Mini (-50.2%) up 4 to #15, DS (-37.5%) is stable at #16 and outsells Opel (-89.6%) for the first time, with Porsche (-14.7%), Ssangyong (-40%), Mitsubishi (-53.5%), Subaru (-53.8%) and Volvo (-60.8%) also “resisting” this month. In contrast, Smart (-91.6%), Honda (-89.6%), Jaguar (-89%), Suzuki (-87.9%) and Jeep (-85.6%) are all hit hard.

First ever French podium for the Renault Captur II.

Model-wise, the Peugeot 208 II manages to hold onto the top spot for the third month in a row at 5.6% share, keeping its archenemy the Renault Clio V at bay at 5.2%. The 208 II now has a 6.371-unit advantage year-to-date which might prove to be quite significant in the race to the annual pole position given the next few months will see extremely low volumes. The Renault Captur II lurches 6 spots on February to score its first ever podium finish in France, making sure the March podium is entirely composed of recent launches less than 1 year-old. The Peugeot 3008 (-71.3%) climbs back up to #4, knocking the Citroen C3 (-78%) down two ranks on last month to #5. The Renault Megane (-62.8%) is up 10 to #6 while the Renault Zoe (+13.5%) is up 6 to score its second Top 10 finish at home in the past 3 months – and ever – at #7. The Peugeot 2008 II is down 4 to #8 in a Top 10 rounded out by the Dacia Sandero (-80%) and Renault Twingo (-57.2%).

Tesla is up to #10 brand, with the Model 3 up to #14 overall and #2 foreigner.

The March Top 12 models are entirely French, with the Toyota Yaris (-62.5%) leading the foreign charge at #13 just above the Tesla Model 3 (+20.1%) up 33 spots on February to a smashing its record ranking to #14 (previous best #42 in March 2019). The Mini Hatch (#20) makes it just 3 foreigners in the Top 20, with the Mercedes A Class (#22), VW Polo (#23) and Hyundai Kona (record #24) filling up the ranks just below. There are only three additional year-on-year gainers in the Top 80: the VW T-Cross (+1117.6%) and DS 3 Crossback (+922%) both celebrating one year in market at #41 and #28 respectively and the Toyota Corolla (+100%) at #30. Below the new generations Peugeot 208, 2008, Renault Clio and Captur, the Ford Puma (#46) is the next best-selling newcomer, followed by the  Kia Xceed up 45 to break into the French Top 100 for the first time at #70, the Mazda CX-30 up 25 to a best-ever #87, the Skoda Kamiq down 2 to #88 and the Mercedes GLB up 24 to #102.

The Toyota Yaris ranks #4 with private buyers over the 1st half of March.

Looking at sales by channel over the first half of the month, private sales already drop -37% to 22.400 and the Peugeot 208 (-7%) snaps the top spot with 1.161 sales ahead of the Dacia Sandero (-53%), Renault Captur (-15%) and the surprise of the month: the Toyota Yaris (-23%) overtaking the Renault Clio (-61%) and Peugeot 2008 (+18%). Here it is blatant that the Clio missed out on its traditional end-of-month sales load-up. The Renault Twingo (-14%) and Dacia Duster (-56%) follow, ahead of the 2nd surprise of the month: the Tesla Model 3 (+291%) toppling the Citroen C3 (-45%) to the bottom of the Top 10 with 555 sales vs. 536 for the Citroen – note the Tesla Model 3 is #1 with private buyers over the 2nd half of March with 272 sales (-47%). The Mini (+4%) is #11 above the Renault Zoe (+85%) with 470 sales, but the Hyundai Kona (+57%), Toyota C-HR (-5%), VW T-Roc (-15%), DS 3 Crossback (318), VW T-Cross (308) and Citroen C3 Aircross (-53%) also making it into the Top 20. Business sales are down -21.8% to 14.285 halfway through the month, with the Renault Clio (-29%) leading the way with 1.111 sales above the Peugeot 3008 (-19%), 208 (-13%), Renault Megane (+27%) and Kadjar (+167%). The Tesla Model 3 (+307%) is also #9 with 387 sales above the Mercedes A-Class (-9%) and DS 7 Crossback (+2%) while the Peugeot 508 (+75%) outsmarts the 2008 (-39%), Citroen C5 Aircross (-17%) and Renault Captur (-58%).

Previous post (1): France 15-23 March 2020: Market down -87%, EV deliveries resist

Previous post (2): France 1-14 March 2020: Sales down -23% before lockdown, set for weakest March volume in 65 years

Previous month: France February 2020: Peugeot 208 II repeats at #1, 2008 II up to #4, private sales down to record-low 38.8% share

One year ago: France March 2019: Skoda, Dacia, Citroen and Opel strong in 6th market decline in past 7 months

Full March 2020 Top 45 All-brands and Top 305 All-models below.

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