French new-car sales rise 9% but market still in 'crisis mode'

PSA's domestic sales rose 14%, lifted by demand for the 308 hatchback.
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PARIS (Reuters) -- French car sales rose 9 percent in March led by gains for domestic automakers Renault and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.

Registrations advanced to 179,871 cars last month from 165,162 a year earlier, the CCFA industry association said in a statement today.

"This is a modest rebound but we should stay cautious," CCFA spokesman Francois Roudier said, citing fleet orders that remain low. "We're still in crisis mode."

The French market is showing signs of a stop-start recovery. Sales rose 9 percent in December then stagnated in the first two months of the year. A 1 percent drop in February ended almost five months of straight sales gains.

Renault Group said today that its domestic car sales rose 21 percent last month, helped by a 53 percent rise in deliveries at the group’s budget Dacia brand.

PSA recorded a 14 percent rise in monthly vehicle sales, boosted by demand for its 2008 subcompact SUV and 308 hatchback.

The broader European auto market is recovering slowly from a six-year slump that has been particularly severe in France, Spain and Italy. Most industry analysts and executives are cautiously predicting a return to growth this year at a low single-digit rate.

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