French Auto Sales Rev up in March

Sales up 8.1% compared to February

Sales of new cars in France jumped 8.1% in March compared to the same month last year, the French carmakers' union CCFA said on April 1, giving a much-needed boost to the ailing industry.

Seasonally adjusted sales however were down 1.8% over the 12 months.

The CCFA said sales at PSA Peugeot Citroen, which ousted chief executive Christian Streiff on March 29, were up 15.9%, while Renault rose 12.8%.

Fiat sales in France rose by 25.1% and Volkswagen by 15.3%. But other foreign groups lost out -- GM Europe sales were down by 18.2%, BMW fell by 30.5% and Toyota-Lexus dropped by 4.9%.

In an interview with France's RTL radio station, Renault chief executive Patrick Pelata said the car company was "doing better" despite the crisis and its sales of small cars in Europe were now almost at the same level as in 2008. "In a way we have arrived, we believe, at the lowest point of the crisis and the company has stabilised," he said, adding that the firm was "well placed at this juncture" to take advantage of state program to boost the industry.

France has lent Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen 3.0 billion euros (US$4 billion) each to help them in the crisis in exchange for a promise to retain French jobs and assembly lines -- a deal that has sparked accusations of protectionism.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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