PARIS -- Car sales fell in France and Spain in March, with French passenger car volume down 23.5 percent as the market suffered the after-effects of a scrappage scheme. In Spain, the decline was less severe at 4.5 percent.
French car sales slid to 197,033, while light commercial vehicle registrations dropped 12.2 percent to 36,493, the CCFA automakers' association said on Monday. In total, March vehicle registrations in France dropped 22 percent to 233,526.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault and Fiat suffered from the withdrawal of French government scrapping incentives that had boosted small-car deliveries through March 2011.
PSA posted a 33 percent decline to 59,290, while Renault suffered a 30 percent drop to 42,908. Fiat's sales fell 41 percent to 4,588.
"This decline is spectacular but it was expected," said Flavien Neuvy, head of credit provider Cetelem's autos research unit. "We think nevertheless that the bulk of the drop for the year has been done in the first quarter."
Renault's commercial director for France, Bernard Cambier, said orders had rebounded last month, up 6 percent after drops of 8 percent and 9 percent in January and February, reaffirming the market forecast for the year.
"Overall, the auto market is falling a bit more than people had predicted," he said. "But generally, we remain fixed on a decline of the order of 10 percent in the market in 2012."
The CCFA stuck to its forecast for the French auto market to contract by 8-10 percent this year.
"Today this range is still valid," CCFA President Patrick Blain told a news conference. "If we do minus 7 percent in the last three quarters, which is not absurd, we can achieve it."
VW wins business
Volkswagen group's French new-car sales fell less than its rivals at 11.9 percent to 26,879 as the German automaker won business with aggressive pricing on models such as the Polo subcompact.
For the first quarter, the VW Group's market share rose to almost 14 percent from 11.2 percent a year earlier, while PSA and Renault each shed more than 2 percentage points.
First-quarter deliveries of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles fell 20 percent to 610,161.