The full year 2006 French light vehicle market turned out 1.1% down on the previous year. The passenger car market was down 3.3% but stayed just above the psychologically important 2m mark.

During 2006 the French car market was characterised by strong upwards and downwards swings in monthly results, compared to the same month of the previous year, giving little clear direction in the overall market. However, the final result is in line with the general economic climate.

According to Colin Couchman, an analyst with automotive forecasters Global Insight consumer confidence is at a low point and, while unemployment has recovered to a certain extent, it remains high. GDP for the full year also turned out worse than expected.

In addition, in the second half of the year, French manufacturers, which still account for over 50% of the market, withdrew many of their discounts and market incentives to focus on their own profitability, said Couchman.

In December the car market was down 11% compared to the previous year, although there were two fewer working days in the month. According to the French automotive trade association, the CCFA, this means that the market was down 2.1% in comparable terms. 150,753 cars were registered in December, bringing the total figure for the full year to 2,000,443.

The CCFA said the full year market was in line with recent years. The market has hovered at the just over 2m unit mark since 2003. It is still well below the good years of 1999-2002 when sales exceeded 2.2m units.

Light commercial vehicle demand (less than five tonnes) was up 2.4% in December to 37,261 units, bringing the full year figure to a record level of 440,035 units, up 4.8% on a year earlier.

Heavy commercial vehicle demand (over five tonnes) was down 53.9% with 3,137 registrations. This massive slide in demand was attributed to strong sales in December 2005 ahead of the introduction of the obligatory fitment of tachographs in all vehicles. For the year as a whole the French truck market was down 3.9% to 53,118 registrations.