2012 (Full Year) France: Best-Selling Car Manufacturers and Models

Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen remained the top-selling car brands and manufacturers in a weakening French car market in 2012. The Clio narrowly outsold the Mégane to become France’s favorite car.

2012 Red Renault Clio driving in Paris
Photo Denis MEUNIER / Renault Media

In 2012, PSA remained France’s top car manufacturer while the strongest car brands were Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, and Volkswagen. The Renault Clio was the most popular car model in France ahead of the Mégane and Citroen C3. New passenger vehicle registrations in France were down 13.9% in 2012. French carmakers underperformed the market dramatically while German manufacturers mostly outperformed the market with premium brands such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes showing unit increases and thus gained market share.

For the full 2012 calendar year, the French total light vehicle market was 2,282,993 (-13.3%) units consisting of 1,898,872 (-13.9%) new passenger vehicle registrations and 384,121 (-10.5%) new light commercial vehicle registrations. Heavy vehicles were down 8.4% to 43,405 registrations.

Car sales in France slipped below the two million mark to the lowest level since 1997.

Best-Selling Carmakers in France in 2012 (Full Year)

According to car sales statistics released by the CCFA, the best-selling car manufacturers and brands in France during the full year 2012 were as follows:

Full Year (January to December)  
  2012 2011 % Change  
Total Market 1,898,872 2,204,229 -13.9
French 998,021 1,238,274 -19.4
Imported 900,851 965,955 -6.7
PSA 571,906 692,837 -17.5  
Peugeot 305,464 369,761 -17.4
Citroen 266,442 323,076 -17.5
RENAULT Group 424,147 544,685 -22.1
Renault 343,355 455,705 -24.7
Dacia 80,792 88,980 -9.2
VW Group 263,285 277,506 -5.1  
Volkswagen 154,446 163,584 -5.6
Audi 61,756 58,970 4.7
Seat 24,181 33,268 -27.3
Skoda 22,465 21,185 6.0
GM Group 96,441 117,669 -18.2  
Opel 71,667 94,102 -23.8
Chevrolet 24,747 23,708 4.4
FORD 92,477 115,357 -19.8  
TOYOTA Group 70,817 70,409 0.6  
NISSAN Group 70,134 72,212 -2.9  
BMW Group 69,564 68,027 2.3  
BMW 48,057 46,305 3.8
Mini 21,485 21,702 -1.0
HYUNDAI Group 61,752 48,165 28.2  
Kia 33,019 27,961 18.1
Hyundai 28,733 20,204 42.2
FIAT Group 59,519 77,970 -23.7  
Fiat 43,555 57,326 -24.0
MERCEDES Grp 53,012 50,357 5.3
Mercedes-Benz 47,569 43,545 9.2
Source: CCVA / Figures exclude “others”

Top-Selling Car Brands in France in 2012

There were no major changes in the order of the top-selling car brands and manufacturers in France in 2012 compared to 2011. Nissan and Toyota swapped positions while Fiat slipped to behind Hyundai-Kia.

Car sales by French brands slipped to less than a million while sales by imported brands slipped less than the market average. The Renault Group sales slipped below the psychologically important half-million barrier.

French carmakers continue to strongly underperform the overall market. PSA remained the strongest car manufacturer in France while Renault remained the most popular car brand in France in 2012. Renault, however, was at the same time the worst-performing major car marque in France in 2012.

Fiat and Opel’s woes continued with a performance as weak as Renault’s. Ford did even worse than Peugeot and Citroen.

German car manufacturers generally did well in France in 2012. Volkswagen saw sales slipping but still outperformed the overall market comfortably. VW-owned Audi and Skoda saw an increase in unit sales, while Seat did even worse than Renault.

BMW and Mercedes, like Audi, saw an increase in sales, with each company now having around 2.5% market share in France.

South Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai again saw a huge increase in sales in France in 2012. Hyundai sales were up 42% while Kia’s sales increased by 18%. The Hyundai Group now has a 3.25% share of the French new passenger vehicle market.

Best-Selling Car Models in France in 2012 (Full Year)

The top-selling car models in France in 2012 according to CCFA sales statistics were:

Model 2012 Full Year  Q1-3/2012
1 Renault Clio 118,907 87,030
2 Renault Megane 118,149 95,291
3 Citroen C3 85,931 66,177
4 Citroen C4 74,762 58,201
5 Peugeot 208 66,368 40,704
6 Peugeot 207 / 206+ 65,295 56,554
7 Peugeot 308 45,746 37,082
8 Volkswagen Polo 44,181 33,138
9 Peugeot 3008 43,863 33,825
10 Renault Twingo 39,697 30,874
Source: CCVA

The Renault Clio narrowly outsold the Renault Mégane to become the most popular car in France in 2012. Over the full twelve months of 2012, only 750 cars separated the two top-selling Renault models. The Mégane was comfortably ahead of the Clio during the first three quarters of 2012.

The Citroen C3 was a distant third followed by the Citroen C4. The new Peugeot 208 was the fifth most popular car model in France in 2012. It was followed by the aging Peugeot 207 / 206+ and Peugeot 308.

The Volkswagen Polo was the eighth most popular car model in France and the only foreign car in the top 10. (The VW Golf has slipped to eleventh place ahead of a model change at the end of 2012.)

The VW Golf had no trouble remaining the best-selling car in Germany in 2012.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.