French car sales fall 11.2 percent in April - CCFA

PARIS (Reuters) - French car sales fell 11.2 percent in April, showing the effects of the end of France’s scrappage scheme, in a dip overshadowed by the 51 percent plunge in Japan’s auto sales after the March 11 earthquake there.

An employee works on a Peugeot 207 on a production line at the PSA Peugeot Citroen Slovakia plant in Trnava December 15, 2010. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

Japanese new vehicle sales in April halved, sinking to the lowest monthly tally on record, as domestic automakers felt the full brunt of the March 11 earthquake that caused unprecedented disruption to car production.

In contrast, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors benefited from Japanese automakers’ woes to post double-digit global sales growth for the month.

In France, car sales rose 4 percent in the first four months of the year, car makers’ association CCFA said in a statement on Monday.

CCFA said 169,453 new passenger cars were registered in April 2011, which had one fewer working days than April 2010.

France’s highly successful scrapping incentive scheme ran out in December 2010, but drivers who bought cars as part of the scheme could register them until the end of March 2011.

A CCFA spokesman said: “The big winners of last year with the scrapping scheme are the worst affected by this fall.”

Supply problems affecting the sector were not helping, he added: “The auto sector was already having trouble meeting demand, and the Japan problem is only going to make the situation worse.”

Many car makers source electronic components from the region of north-east Japan worst affected by the natural disaster, whose aftermath is disrupting the global auto supply chain.

Car makers have relied on stocks to maintain production, but many have warned there could be problems in the coming months as suppliers struggle to restart production and sourcing components elsewhere remains a costly and complicated back-up option.

Sales of light utility vehicles fell 6.4 percent in April and rose 4.6 percent in January-April in France.

Renault saw a 19.1 percent drop in group passenger car sales last month, while PSA Peugeot Citroen saw group car sales fall 21.1 percent.

Volkswagen, Europe’s largest car maker, saw a 2.1 percent increase in April group passenger car sales in France, while Japan’s Toyota and Nissan sales rose 27.4 percent and 25.6 percent respectively.

“The French market is returning to normal (after the scrapping scheme),” said Flavien Neuvy, head of the automobile industry research department at French consumer credit organisation Cetelem.

Renault last month posted a dip in March sales because of supply chain problems unrelated to the situation in Japan.

Reporting by Helen Massy-Beresford and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by James Regan and Hans Peters