UPDATE 1-French car sales extend decline ahead of new models

Mon Jun 3, 2013 3:48am EDT

(Adds comment, details on individual automakers)

PARIS, June 3 (Reuters) - French car sales tumbled 10.3 percent in May, the country's main auto industry body said, as consumers held back for new models from Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Registrations fell to 148,554 cars last month from 165,691 a year earlier, the CCFA said in an emailed statement on Monday. The Paris-based association reiterated its forecast of an 8 percent market decline for the full year.

With the European auto market nearing a two-decade low after five years of contraction, struggling carmakers hope they are nearing the bottom of the slump.

In April, Europe-wide car registrations had risen for the first time in 19 months, and the French decline slowed to 5.2 percent, helped by extra sales days as Easter holidays fell earlier than in 2012.

Renault's French car sales dropped another 16.5 percent last month, as Peugeot's fell 8.2 percent and Volkswagen slid 11 percent. General Motors suffered a 25.6 percent sales slump.

Renault and Peugeot are rolling out the Captur and 2008 subcompact SUVs, expected to lift domestic registrations along with an imminent update to the Citroen C4 Picasso minivan.

Sales of light commerical vehicles nevertheless fell 11.2 percent, faster than car sales, betraying the continued fragility of the market.

The model launches "should have a more positive effect in June and July and continuing through the second half," CCFA spokesman Francois Roudier said.

"But the delivery van sales are a clear sign that economic activity is still very weak." (Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Elena Berton and Christian Plumb)

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