sales of new cars in France at its lowest in more than 40 years

In this Citröen dealer in Olivet, near Orléans, we count the customers on one hand. In two hours, only five visitors will come to have their vehicle serviced. No one came to buy. “Firstly because it is expensive“, explains Michel, customer of the concession.”If I take the hybrid C5 in front of me, its base price is 50,000 euros.

A symptomatic scene of the condition of the French car sector, which has been idling for several 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 measurement of car sales.

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

It’s dramatic“, regrets the head of this Citroën dealer in Orléans.”Even the open houses, where we score a lot, we now register hardly more orders than usual.

“Before, we sold between 150 and 180 vehicles a month. There we are currently a little on the half smaller or even worse.”

Olivier Dufour, dealer

france info

When customers are there, they are also often discouraged by the longer delivery times, with some models waiting up to a year and a half. The factories are actually idling due to the famous lack of semiconductors. Suppliers of these highly coveted parts, mainly Taiwanese and Chinese, supply them primarily to manufacturers of smartphones and computers rather than to car manufacturers. Last year, European factories made 3% fewer cars, and sellers’ stocks are dwindling. “I do not even have 25 vehicles ready to be sold“, Explains Olivier Dufour.

Together with franceinfo, Anaïs states that she ordered a new vehicle in September 2021. She still has not received her car: “At the time of booking, we are told that it can happen in December. In December, we finally get to know January. In January, rebelote.“She explains that she had also been looking for a used car, but that prices are no longer as attractive in this market as they were a few years ago. “For a used vehicle, we have almost identical costs as new,” regrets Anaïs.

This is actually a consequence of the decline 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 used market. Result: The price of used cars has risen by 13% in 2021. According to professionals, this crisis is likely to subside over time, while sales of new cars have been declining in France for 21 consecutive months. Marc Bruschet, chairman of dealers at Mobilians, the automotive trade union, at best does not see an improvement until next year: “You have the semiconductor crisis, which will last at least until 2023 or even 2024. And then you now have the crisis in Ukraine, which complicates things further.

“Price increases are likely to subside over time. If we continue like this, the car risks becoming a luxury item.”

Marc Bruschet, President of Concessionaires at Mobilians

at france info

The builders themselves highlight the trend. In addition, they are doing well and their profits are rising because they favor the sale of expensive models, such as electric cars and SUVs. They will sell fewer vehicles but more expensive models. So they reduce their production of entry-level models … And pressure their dealers not to promote.

>> For the first time, sales of new hybrid cars will equal diesel in Europe in 2021

Finally, for several years there has been another obstacle to the purchase of vehicles: consumer uncertainty about the type of engine. Before they buy, many drivers would like 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, emphasizes Éric Champarnaud, Director of C-Ways, a company specializing in automotive marketing. They will ban vehicles of a certain age, then all diesel vehicles“.

Today, electric cars cost on average 10,000 euros more than similar models with petrol engines. Despite conversion support, they remain very expensive for small budgets.

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