PARIS French car sales deepened their monthly decline to 18 percent in December, with Renault (RENA.PA) and Peugeot (PEUP.PA) losing ground as an end-of-year subsidy hangover blighted demand for their smaller vehicles.
Europe's second-biggest auto market logged 187,653 car registrations, accelerating its year-on-year drop from November's 7.6 percent slide, France's CCFA automakers association said on Monday. Full-year sales fell 2.1 percent.
December's decline was accentuated by a sales surge at the end of 2010, when consumers rushed to showrooms before the expiry of government-funded subsidies on trade-ins, CCFA spokesman Francois Roudier said.
"Still, the market is showing a decline in morale," he said. "Registrations in the first quarter are also likely to reflect the lower orders automakers have been reporting."
Paris-based PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest automaker after Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), posted a 29 percent plunge in December sales, the CCFA said. Smaller domestic rival Renault recorded a 28 percent drop.
"Orders were down about 55 percent in December, which leads us to expect a car market contraction of 17 percent in the first quarter," Renault France sales chief Bernard Cambier said by telephone.
The automaker is forecasting an 8 percent decline in the French car market this year and a 3 percent gain in light commercial vehicle deliveries for a 7 percent fall overall.
While the subsidy withdrawal hurt small-car demand across the industry last year, the French automakers also suffered from ageing models in the key subcompact category. The Renault Clio and Peugeot 207 are both due for updates later this year.
Peugeot's full-year market share fell 1 percentage point to 31.4 percent, while Renault's slipped 2 points to 24.7 percent, as both carmakers underperformed at home.
Fiat's FIA.MI French registrations fell 14 percent in December - less than the market - while VW bucked the slide with a 15 percent gain, led by a 21 percent surge at luxury unit Audi. Hyundai's (005380.KS) Kia brand also resisted, with a 12 percent gain.
Daimler (DAIGn.DE) increased French deliveries by 2 percent as BMW's (BMWG.DE) sales fell in line with the market.
General Motors' (GM.N) Opel brand led a 37 percent sales drop for the group, even as Toyota (7203.T) recorded a modest 2.8 percent fall and Ford's (F.N) sales advanced 4.2 percent.
Delivery van sales, whose recovery from the last economic crisis was unsubsidized and began later, rose 1.6 percent in December to end the year 2.8 percent higher. Total light vehicle sales, combining cars with commercial vans, fell 15 percent for the month and were down 1.3 percent in 2011.
(Editing by James Regan and Mike Nesbit)