PARIS -- New-car sales in France rose by 1.2 percent in June, as consumers returned to showrooms to take advantage of generous government incentives put in place to boost traffic after coronavirus lockdowns.The largest gains were at Lexus, Suzuki, Mercedes and BMW, each recording increases of more than 40 percent for the month.
There were 233,818 registrations in June, with 21 selling days compared with 19 in June 2019, according to industry group CCFA. Adjusted for that difference, sales would have been down 8.4 percent in June.
It was the first monthly gain for the French market since December, when automakers sought to move higher-emissions models ahead of new EU regulations for 2020-21.
For the year, registrations have fallen by 39 percent.
Monthly registrations declined by 72 percent in March after dealerships closed on March 16 and fell by 89 percent in April. The first signs of a recovery appeared in May, as showrooms began to reopen, and the market fell by 57 percent for the month.
"It's encouraging even if we have to remain cautious" about what will come next, Luc Chatel, head of French auto lobby La Plateforme Automobile said on BFM radio.
President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a raft of measures in May aimed at reviving France's car industry and drawing workers back to local factories.
Incentives took effect June 1 for the purchase of electric cars and a scrapping program began to encourage consumers to trade in older, more polluting cars for 200,000 new vehicles.
Chatel said the quota will most likely be used up by the end of the summer, calling for a phasing out of some of measures to avoid "stop and go" effects on the market.
Among French automakers, Renault Group recorded an increase of 6.5 percent in June, with Renault brand up 6.4 percent and budget brand Dacia up 8 percent.
PSA Group sales fell by 9.1 percent, with Citroen down 8.5 percent, Peugeot fell 5.7 percent, Opel was down 14 percent and DS dropped by 40 percent.
Renault expects a pick-up in the French car market in June, after the country's coronavirus lockdown was lifted, to carry on into the third quarter, the brand's sales chief for France Ivan Segal said on Wednesday.
Segal told reporters there was still uncertainty about the state of the market in the fourth quarter, however, while the brand is expecting the French car market to fall by 20 percent this year as a whole. Forecasters expect the European market to fall by about 25 percent.
Luxury brands recorded strong increases. Mercedes sales were up by 44 percent and BMW brand sales rose by 43 percent. BMW Group's Mini brand increased sales by 28 percent.
Volkswagen Group sales fell by 7.7 percent, with VW brand down by 15 percent and Audi down 11 percent. Skoda sales rose by 20 percent, while Seat sales were flat, with a 1 percent increase.
Sales at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fell sharply, by 40 percent, with Fiat down 37 percent and Jeep down 57 percent.
- Download PDF of French sales in June by automaker and brand here.
Ford sales rose by 25 percent, and Volvo sales were up by 15 percent.
Lexus led Asian brands with an increase of 49 percent, with Toyota brand sales up 15 percent. Nissan sales fell by 2.8 percent.
Hyundai sales rose by 26 percent, and sibling brand Kia recorded a 29 percent gain.
Average CO2 emissions for the month were 99 grams per km, compared with 112 g/km in June 2019, as European automakers aim for a fleet target of 95 g/km.
Gasoline powertrains made up 51 percent of the market through June, compared with 58 percent for the same period in 2019. Diesel share was 31 percent, compared with 34 percent in 2019.
Hybrid vehicles had an 11 percent share, with the plug-in hybrid share at 2.8 percent. Battery-electric vehicle share was 6.3 percent, compared with 1.8 percent in the first half of 2019.
The Renault Clio and Peugeot 208 small cars tied for the top sales position in the first half, each taking 5.4 percent of the market, with the Clio selling 21 more units than the 208.
Light-commercial vehicle sales increased by 7.8 percent for the month.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report