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French car market set for worst year since 1997

New Renault Clios on display at the Paris Auto Show in France.

Christophe Ena/AP

France's car market is on course for its worst year since 1997, industry association CCFA said when reporting that new car registrations fell 19.2 per cent in November.

The market will fall 13 to 15 per cent this year, most likely around 14 per cent, the CCFA said on Monday. It had previously expected registrations to fall at least 12 per cent.

"That will give us a market that will be below 1.9 million vehicles in 2012, and you need to go back to 1997 to find a worse year," chairman Patrick Blain told reporters.

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November declines were led by French group Renault and Japanese partner Nissan, and U.S. auto maker General Motors, according to CCFA figures.

Auto makers are facing a sustained slump in a European car market hit by the effects of the euro zone debt crisis and government austerity measures.

French registrations fell to 144,694 last month, contributing to an 11-month drop of 13.8 per cent, the CCFA said.

Renault group new car registrations fell 33.5 per cent, while domestic rival PSA Peugeot Citroën saw a drop of 22.9 per cent. Nissan suffered a 29.4 per cent decline in November, while U.S. car makers General Motors and Ford saw decreases of 25.8 and 21.4 per cent respectively.

German premium car makers bucked the trend, with Volkswagen's Audi achieving a 1 per cent rise, while BMW group had a 4.2 per cent rise and Daimler's > Mercedes brand saw an 18.5 per cent increase.

South Korean company Hyundai was the French market's best performer last month, with a 20.5 per cent rise.

France's Latin neighbours also posted gloomy figures on Monday. Spanish car sales fell 20.3 per cent to 48,155 in November year on year, according to the Anfac trade group.

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In Italy, the Transport Ministry said car sales fell 20.1 per cent to 106,491 vehicles, with Fiat's market share steady at 29.7 per cent.

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