PARIS -- French registrations rose by 4.7 percent to 2.1 million in 2017, led by increases of more than 10 percent at Seat, Toyota, Skoda and Kia, industry group CCFA reported on Tuesday.
There were two fewer selling days in 2017 than in 2016. Sales were up 5.6 percent on an adjusted basis. It was the third consecutive year of strong growth in France, Europe's third-largest auto market after Germany and the UK, following gains of 5.1 percent in 2016 and 6.8 percent in 2015.
Sales in December fell by 0.5 percent, but there were two fewer selling days in the month than in 2016. Adjusted for equal selling days, December registrations rose 9.4 percent.
PSA Group sales rose 10 percent for the year and 16 percent in December, after the automaker added Opel sales after buying the division from General Motors. Excluding Opel, sales rose 3.3 percent in December.
Peugeot sales increased by 9.2 percent in 2017 and 6.6 percent in December, as the brand benefited from the introduction of the 3008 and 5008 crossovers. Citroen sales rose 3.3 percent for the year but fell 2.3 percent in December. The upscale brand DS declined by 24 percent in 2017 but just 0.3 percent in December, as a steep drop in sales appeared to level off. Opel sales rose 6.3 percent for the year but dropped 5.6 percent in December.
Sales at Renault Group increased 3.1 percent in 2017, but fell 4 percent in December. Renault sales increased 2.1 percent for the year but fell 4 percent in December, while budget brand Dacia rose 6.6 percent for the year and 12 percent in December.
Volkswagen Group sales rose 1.4 percent for the year, as sales at mass-market brands Seat (up 14 percent in 2017 and 10 percent in December) and Skoda (plus 14 percent in 2017 and 4.4 percent in December) offset a 2.6 percent annual decline at VW brand. VW brand registrations rose 4.4 percent in December. Audi sales were largely flat, rising 1.7 percent for the year and 1.1 percent in December.
Toyota led Asian automakers with an annual gain of 14 percent, though December sales fell by 1.7 percent. Kia brand led the Hyundai group, with annual sales rising 11 percent and December sales up 1.9 percent. Sales at Hyundai rose 5 percent in 2017, and 8.6 percent in December. Nissan sales rose 3.5 percent in 2017 but fell 21 percent in December.
Fiat-Chrysler group sales rose 10 percent in 2017, with Fiat brand up 9 percent. However, group sales fell 5.6 percent in December, and Fiat sales fell 12 percent for the month. Alfa Romeo sales increased 26 percent for the year as the company introduced the Stelvio SUV. Jeep sales rose 9.1 percent for the year.
Mercedes-Benz sales rose 9.6 percent for the year but fell 1.1 percent in December. BMW closed the year strongly, rising 11 percent in December for an overall 2017 gain of 1.3 percent. Sales at Ford increased 6.6 percent in 2017 and 1.1 percent in December.
The share of new diesel cars fell below 50 percent in 2017 for the first time since 2000. Diesel registrations fell 5 percent for the year to 47 percent of all new registrations, down from 52 percent in 2016, and were down 10 percent in December.
Diesel cars made up three quarters of all French sales five years ago. Following the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal in 2015, many cities and countries have imposed limits or bans on polluting diesel engines.
Gasoline registrations rose by 14 percent in 2017, to 48 percent of the market, though the difference by volume between gasoline and diesel was just 6,000 vehicles. Gasoline car sales increased 9 percent in December.
Electric vehicle registrations rose 15 percent in 2017, but fell 3.5 percent in December. They made up 1.2 percent of the market. Hybrid sales were up 48 percent for the year, and rose 10 percent in December, to 3.25 percent of the market.
Light-utility vehicle sales increased 7 percent in 2017, or 7.8 percent on an adjusted basis.
Reuters contributed to this report