PARIS -- The French car market could face a slowdown in 2019 after five years of growth, despite the launches of new versions of the two best-selling models, the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, auto executives and the industry group CCFA said.
The market -- at least initially -- would continue to feel the effects of widespread weekend "Yellow Vests" protests over the cost of living that have blocked access to many dealers, as well as delays in WLTP certification testing, Francois Roudier, CCFA spokesman, said at a PSA Group news conference here Monday.
Many models that were not certified by a Sept. 1 deadline were pulled from the market.
"We will stay cautious," Roudier said. "We think the market could stabilize, but this is only our first impression. We will know more by the beginning of March."
Overall, French car sales rose by 3 percent in 2018, outpacing other major European markets, but sales started to fall starting in the autumn, and were down 15 percent in December.
Cetelem, a lending subsidiary of BNP Paribas, said Tuesday that it expected the French auto market to decline by 3 percent to 4 percent this year. The CCFA is scheduled to release its annual sales forecast at the beginning of March.
Peugeot France's commercial director, Guillaume Couzy, said November and December were difficult months dealers because of the "Yellow Vest" protests, which kept prospective buyers away from showrooms. Dealers saw very little activity, he said. "Our best hypothesis for the market in 2019 is that it will be somewhat stable," Couzy said.
Peugeot's French sales were up 6.2 percent in 2018, driven by the 2008, 3008 and 5008 crossovers, which combined accounted for 24 percent of all SUVs and crossovers sold in France, Couzy said.