PARIS -- France's new-car sales rose 28 percent in December, as automakers tried to sell models with high CO2 emissions before new EU regulations went into effect on Jan. 1.
There were 211,194 cars registered last month, according to data from industry association CCFA. For the year, the French market rose by 2.3 percent to 2.21 million.
Cars registered after Jan. 1 count toward the EU's fleet emissions target of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer.
For 2020, automakers are allowed to exclude 5 percent of their sales, but that exception will not apply in 2021.
Within the 95 g/km target, every automaker has a specific figure it needs to reach, based on the average mass of all cars sold.
The push to sell high-pollution vehicles was reflected in an increase of overall CO2 emissions in France in December to 113 g/km, after the figure had fallen to 109 g/km in October.
A similar jump was seen in August 2018, ahead of a deadline to certify vehicles under the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure, or WLTP.
As a result, most automakers and brands recorded double-digit sales increases in December.
The top gainers were Land Rover, up 142 percent, and Jaguar, up 113 percent. Mitsubishi sales increased by 90 percent, and Nissan sales rose by 81 percent.
Among French automakers, Renault Group sales increased by 30 percent, with the Renault brand up 27 percent and budget brand Dacia increasing by 38 percent.
PSA Group sales rose by 6.5 percent, with Peugeot sales up 8.2 percent, Citroen up 10 percent and DS up by 58 percent. Sales at German brand Opel fell by 34 percent.
- Click here to download December and 12-month French sales by automaker and brand.
Volkswagen Group sales increased by 38 percent, with the Volkswagen brand up 24 percent, Audi up 74 percent, Skoda up 58 percent and Seat up 8.7 percent. Porsche sales rose by 389 percent, although the sports-car brand sold just 230 vehicles in December 2018.
BMW Group sales were up by 48 percent, 69 percent at BMW brand and 13 percent at Mini. Daimler recorded a 35 percent increase, 31 percent at Mercedes and 61 percent at Smart.
Fiat Chrysler sales rose 36 percent, with gains of 32 percent at Fiat and 50 percent at Jeep. Ford sales increased by 25 percent. Volvo sales were up by 77 percent.
Among Asian brands, Kia sales rose by 53 percent and sister brand Hyundai was up by 32 percent. Sales at Toyota, which sells most vehicles with hybrid powertrains and is close to its 2020 emissions targets, rose by just 3.2 percent.
Sales of light-commercial vehicles were up by 8.5 percent in December, and 4.5 percent for the year, the CCFA said.
Best-sellers for 2019
According to the CCFA, the Renault Clio small hatchback was the best-selling model in France, with around 140,000 sales in 2019, including both fourth- and fifth-generation models.
The Clio was followed by the Peugeot 208 small hatchback, the Citroen C3 small hatchback, the Peugeot 3008 compact crossover and the Dacia Sandero compact hatchback.
Renault was the best-selling brand, with a 21 percent market share, followed by Peugeot at 17 percent and Citroen at 12 percent. PSA Group's market share was 33 percent, and Renault Group's was 26 percent.
By powertrain, gasoline sales for the year rose to 58 percent from 55 percent in 2018. Diesel sales fell to 34 percent from 39 percent. Hybrid sales were up to 5.7 percent from 4.9 percent, with just 0.8 percent plug-in hybrids -- a category that many automakers are counting on to help lower fleet emissions in 2020 and 2021. Similarly, full-electric vehicle sales rose to 1.9 percent in 2019 from 1.4 percent in 2018.
Crossovers and SUVs made up 38 percent of the market in 2019, up from 36 percent.
Hatchbacks and sedans together had 49 percent of the market, a slight drop from 50 percent in 2018.