Car sales in France and Spain continued to slide in the first quarter of the year with the French market hardest hit, down 21.7%, according to figures from the Committee of French Manufacturers (CCFA).

Last month sales fell by 23.5% following a drop of 20.2% in February. The slide is partly explained by strong sales a year ago which were boosted to a 10-year high by a French scrappage scheme that subsidised new car purchases.

A total of 507,089 vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2012 in France, down from 647,454 in the same period a year earlier.

Domestic manufacturers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault, which account for over half of the market, each saw their sales fall 30% while foreign car makers overall saw a drop of 9.3%. High-end manufacturers BMW and Mercedes were seemingly unaffected, posting sales increases of 8.4% and 24.2% respectively.

Spanish car registrations fell 4.5% on the year in March as consumer spending continued to dip. Manufacturers’ association Anfac reported that 84,427 cars were registered last month, down from 88,397 a year earlier. In the first quarter, car registrations fell 1.9% to 204,119 units.

Last week, data from the National Statistics Institute showed that retail sales had fallen 4% on the year in the first two months of the year, another indication of the weak economy.

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The government expects the economy to shrink by 1.7% on the year in 2012, hurt by government spending cuts and efforts by households and companies to reduce debt.