new car sales in France at their lowest level in over 40 years

At this Citröen d’Olivet dealership near Orleans, we count our customers with the fingers of one hand. In two hours there are only five visitors, who come to have their vehicle repaired. No one came to buy. “First because it is expensive“explains Michel, a customer of the concession.”If I take the C5 hybrid in front, its base price is 50,000 euros.

A symptomatic scenario of the state of the French car sector that has been idling for a few months. Between January and March, less than 400,000 new cars were sold in the country, a historically low level since 1980 and the start of this national measure of vehicle sales.

In fact, the price of new cars has risen in 2021. This 6% increase is even stronger than inflation. An increase that is explained by the price of raw materials to produce vehicles: steel, copper, aluminum, lithium … while the purchasing power of potential motoring customers does not follow.

It’s dramatic“Laments the manager of this Citroën dealership in Orleans.”Even the open days where we make very high scores, now we barely register more orders than normal.

“We used to sell between 150 and 180 vehicles a month. There, at the moment, we are more or less half, or even worse.”

Olivier Dufour, distributor


Also, when customers are there, they are often discouraged by longer delivery times, with some models waiting up to a year and a half. In fact, factories are slowing down due to the famous shortage of semiconductors. Suppliers of these sought-after parts, mainly Taiwanese and Chinese, deliver them with priority to smartphone and computer manufacturers, rather than car manufacturers. Last year, European factories produced 3% fewer cars and sellers’ stocks are declining. “I don’t even have 25 vehicles ready to sell“explains Olivier Dufour.

Accompanied by franceinfo, Anaïs indicates that she ordered a new vehicle in September 2021. She has not yet received her car: “At the time of the order, we are told it could happen in December. In December, they finally tell us in January. In January, rebel.“He explains that he was also looking for a second-hand vehicle, but that the prices are no longer as attractive in this market as a few years ago. “For a used vehicle, we have costs almost identical to the new ones,” laments Anaïs.

This is due to the fall in sales in the new market: as individuals do not buy a new car, they keep their old vehicle, which is not resold in the second-hand market. As a result, the price of used cars has risen by 13% in 2021. According to professionals, this crisis is likely to settle over time, while new car sales have been falling in France for 21 consecutive months. . Marc Bruschet, president of dealerships for Mobilians, the union of automotive professionals, sees no improvement until next year, at best: “You have the semiconductor crisis that will last at least until 2023 or even 2024. And now you have the crisis in Ukraine that complicates things even more.

“Price increases are likely to settle over time. If we continue like this, the car runs the risk of becoming a luxury item.”

Marc Bruschet, president of Mobilians dealerships

a franceinfo

The builders themselves are accentuating the trend. In addition, they are doing well and their profits are increasing, because they favor the sale of expensive models, such as electric cars and SUVs. They want to sell fewer vehicles, but more expensive models. So they reduce their production of input models … And they push their dealers not to promote.

>> For the first time, sales of new hybrid cars have matched those of diesel in Europe in 2021

Finally, for several years now, there has been another obstacle to buying vehicles: consumer uncertainty about the type of engine. Before buying, many drivers want to know if they will still be able to drive diesel in a few years. “All cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants must have a low-emission zone (ZFE) by 2025, highlights Eric Champarnaud, director of C-Ways, a company specializing in automotive marketing. They will ban vehicles of a certain age, then all diesel vehicles“.

Electric vehicles currently cost an average of 10,000 euros more than equivalent models with petrol engines. Despite conversion aids, they are still very expensive for small budgets.

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