Third-quarter car sales figures next week are likely to show that new models from Renault have stolen a march on stalled rival PSA Peugeot Citroen, Reuters speculated.

The news agency said analysts are expecting, on average, a 2.75% rise in Renault's revenues to €8.21 billion, after its revamped new Scenic minivan scored a hit with motorists and helped it defy sliding demand in its home market.

Sales at PSA, however, are expected to dip almost 2% to €12.55 billion as the firm is hit by weaker western European demand and a model line-up that is starting to look dowdy against its rivals' smart new offerings, the report said.

Reuters noted that PSA marred its reputation as Europe's most reliable mass car maker with a July profit warning that proved tough cost cuts were not enough to shield it from sector blues, and added that many analysts think the firm will nudge down earnings guidance again.

"We can expect a much more upbeat message from Renault, which in terms of market-share momentum is the real stand-out among mass makers at the moment," one London-based analyst told Reuters, adding: "Things are working against PSA."

The news agency said Renault stock has been in vogue for some months now as the market bet new models like its quirky Megane and popular Scenic spin-off would boost sales and earnings, even though it, too, was forced to trim full-year profitability targets in July.

Reuters said Renault stock has outperformed the European DJ Stoxx Autos index by about 5% so far this year, while PSA has lagged by almost 17%, and next week's figures are expected to confirm the market's view.

"The Renault-PSA reversal scenario is one people have been talking about for a while, and it's maybe happened later than people expected," Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley told Reuters, adding: "But we will definitely see Peugeot losing more share to Renault."

But Reuters cautioned that sales are only half the story, and noted that most analysts will be looking for hints on full-year profits.

The news agency said Renault is widely expected to confirm a full-year operating margin target of 3.5-4.0% but many fear that PSA could spring another profit warning after traders and analysts said CFO Yann Delabriere had told analysts last month that an already revised key full-year target would be hard to meet.

Reuters recalled that Europe's second-biggest car maker said in July it was aiming to notch up an operating margin in its core cars division that matched or beat the first-half level of 3.7%, but many analysts say this could still be shooting too high.

"The French market stinks; there's tougher competition to contend with, and currency will knock off at least 200 million euros," one Paris-based analyst said, adding: "There will definitely be a profit warning. It's the magnitude that will be interesting."

Reuters said PSA, a strong performer in recent years thanks to a steady stream of successful models, has been hard hit by euro strength against the British pound, is suffering from tougher competition as its cars age, is trimming production to match waning demand and could fall prey to a weaker product mix, since sales are being driven by less profitable small cars like the curvy Citroen C3.