2012 (Q3) France: Best Selling Car Manufacturers and Models

Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen remained the top-selling car brands in France from January to September 2012. Volkswagen was the most popular imported car.

White Renault Megane 2012
Renault Megane – France’s favorite car in 2012. Photo: Stéphane FOULON / Renault

New passenger vehicle registrations in France declined by 14% during the first three quarters of 2012. The market leaders Renault, Peugeot and Citroen strongly underperformed the general market but maintained their positions as the three leading car brands in France. Volkswagen remained the fourth-strongest car seller in France and the most popular imported vehicle brand. German premium brands Audi, BMW, and Mercedes showed small but positive growth. Korean car manufacturers showed strong growth to take just over 3% of the French new car market over the first three quarters of 2012.

Best-Selling Cars in France in 2012 (Q3)

Vehicle sales statistics released by the CCFA show the French total vehicle market shrunk during the first nine months of 2012 by 12.9% to 1,718,034 units (1,972,981 from January to September 2011). New passenger vehicle registrations were even weaker and declined by 13.9% to 1,430,832 cars (1,661,271 cars in 2011).

The best-selling new passenger car manufacturers in France during the first nine months of 2012 were:

January to September (Q1-3)
2012 2011 % Change
Total Market 1,430,832 1,661,271 -13.9
French 766,074 944,316 -18.9
Imported 664,758 716,955 -7.3
PSA 438,232 537,345 -18.4
Peugeot 234,027 288,797 -19.0
Citroen 204,205 248,548 -17.8
RENAULT Group 326,152 406,821 -19.8
Renault 265,339 344,302 -22.9
Dacia 60,813 62,519 -2.7
VW Group 196,467 205,324 -4.3
Volkswagen 116,373 121,089 -3.9
Audi 45,466 43,682 4.1
Seat 18,107 25,136 -28.0
Skoda 16,136 15,043 7.3
GM Group 75,097 92,061 -18.4
Opel 55,613 74,200 -25.0
Chevrolet 19,468 17,814 9.3
FORD 70,865 86,865 -18.4
NISSAN Group 53,155 52,145 1.9
TOYOTA Group 49,867 51,335 -2.9
BMW Group 48,898 48,525 0.8
BMW 33,478 33,064 1.3
Mini 15,402 15,444 -0.3
FIAT Group 44,312 60,409 -26.6
Fiat 32,002 45,030 -28.9
HYUNDAI Group 44,303 34,284 29.2
Kia 24,057 19,670 22.3
Hyundai 20,246 14,614 38.5
MERCEDES Group 37,261 36,404 2.4
Mercedes-Benz 33,377 31,741 5.2
Source: CCVA / Figures exclude “others”

Changes in the Best-Selling Cars in France in 2012 (Q3)

Although Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen easily remained the top three car brands in France during the first nine months of 2012, all three strongly underperformed the general market. French manufacturers claimed a market share of 53.5% (vs 57% a year ago), which led to claims by populist politicians that South Korean car manufacturers are dumping vehicles on the European market.

Opel and Fiat did even worse than the French carmakers and saw a decline of around a quarter in total car sales in France during the first three quarters of 2012. Ford similarly underperformed the market.

Volkswagen, the strongest foreign car brand in France, outperformed the market with a decline in sales of Volkswagen and Seat (-25%) brand cars but an increase in units sold by Audi and Skoda. Other premium luxury car brands BMW and Mercedes also saw an increase in sales with Mercedes-Benz brand sales up over 5%. BMW managed to sell 18 Rolls Royce cars in France during the first three quarters of 2012, one more than in the previous year.

South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai Group was the star performer in France during the first nine months of 2012. Sales increased by 29.2% to give South Korean cars 3.1% (up from 2.06% in 2011) of the French car market. Hyundai and Kia sold only 9 cars fewer than Fiat – during the same period last year the difference was over 15,000.

Top-Selling Car Models in France in 2012 (Q3)

French car models remain the most popular cars in France during the first nine months of 2012. The VW Polo was the only imported car – the VW Golf, which will see a model change by the end of the year, slipped to 11th place.

The top ten best-selling car models in France during the first nine months of 2012 according to the CFAA were:

  Model Cars Sold Q1-3/2012
1 Renault Megane 95,291
2 Renault Clio 87,030
3 Citroen C3 66,177
4 Citroen C4 58,201
5 Peugeot 207 / 206+ 56,554
6 Peugeot 208 40,704
7 Peugeot 308 37,082
8 Peugeot 3008 33,825
9 Volkswagen Polo 33,138
10 Renault Twingo 30,874

These are roughly the same models as during the first nine months of 2011 although the order has changed somewhat. New on the list is the Peugeot 208, while the Dacia Duster slipped out of the top ten.

More interesting are the actual numbers: last year’s best-selling car the Renault Clio sold 116,086 cars during the same period while the Megane was the third best-selling car last year by selling 107,747 cars, around 12,500 more than were required for its first place in 2012.

The French car market has been weak for all of 2012. Q1 sales were particularly weak (down more than 20%) and half year sales down 14%. The decline in July and August were less severe but September sales were down 18%. The slow down in the decline of sales versus 2011 is more a reflection of the weakness already present in the French car market during the second half of 2011 and does not hint at any recovery in new car sales in France.