Comparison: car sales in France 1985 vs. 2014

With a little help and some inspiration from Daniel Carrer, I can make an interesting comparison between the car sales in France in 1985 and 2014. Although the French car market as a whole has barely grown in 29 years, a lot has happened in the brands ranking.

France-car_sales-1985-2014-Renault_Supercinq-Peugeot_205The top-3 is still the same, with the Big-3 French manufacturers holding on to their positions, even though Renault and Peugeot have lost quite a bit of market share: 9,08 and 3,67 percentage points respectively, not even counting Talbot in the 1985 figure. Citroën on the other hand is stable, when we include DS sales from 2015.

As a result, the market share of the local French brands has eroded from almost two thirds (63,53%) to under half of the total market (49,59%). Even when counting Renault’s Romanian sub-brand Dacia as local, the French have lost over 127.000 annual sales.

Rank Brand 1985 Market share   Rank Brand 2014 Market Share
1 Renault 507.788 28,80% 1 Renault 353.906 19,72%
2 Peugeot 364.367 20,67% 2 Peugeot 305.015 16,99%
3 Citroën 226.789 12,86% 3 Citroen 199.385 11,11%
4 Ford 133.288 7,56% 4 Volkswagen 139.554 7,78%
5 Opel 87.088 4,94% 5 Dacia 102.519 5,71%
6 Volkswagen 86.221 4,89% 6 Ford 75.090 4,18%
7 Fiat 74.447 4,22% 7 Nissan 68.072 3,79%
8 BMW 29.347 1,66% 8 Toyota 66.775 3,72%
9 Audi 24.513 1,39% 9 Opel 61.246 3,41%
10 Seat 22.010 1,25% 10 Audi 56.395 3,14%
11 Talbot 21.100 1,20% 11 Mercedes 49.149 2,74%
12 Mercedes-Benz 20.939 1,19% 12 BMW 47.682 2,66%
13 Austin 20.791 1,18% 13 Fiat 45.738 2,55%
14 Lada 20.094 1,14% 14 DS 31.746 1,77%
15 Volvo 18.157 1,03% 15 Kia 28.186 1,57%
16 Datsun 15.515 0,88% 16 Seat 21.090 1,18%
17 Alfa Romeo 14.907 0,85% 17 Skoda 20.412 1,14%
18 Mazda 13.836 0,78% 18 Mini 18.277 1,02%
19 Toyota 11.933 0,68% 19 Hyundai 17.165 0,96%
20 Autobianchi 9.704 0,55% 20 Suzuki 15.835 0,88%
21 Honda 8.824 0,50% 21 Volvo 12.459 0,69%
22 Lancia 8.508 0,48% 22 Alfa Romeo 7.608 0,42%
23 Mini 6.240 0,35% 23 Honda 7.091 0,40%
24 Rover 3.696 0,21% 24 Land Rover 6.794 0,38%
25 Mitsubishi 3.341 0,19% 25 Lancia 6.105 0,34%
26 Zastava 1.621 0,09% 26 Mazda 6.062 0,34%
27 Saab 1.565 0,09% 27 Chevrolet 4.185 0,23%
28 FSO 1.457 0,08% 28 Smart 4.149 0,23%
29 Porsche 1.432 0,08% 29 Mitsubishi 3.496 0,19%
30 Innocenti 1.341 0,08% 30 Lexus 3.486 0,19%
31 MG 1.101 0,06% 31 Porsche 3.449 0,19%
32 Jaguar 266 0,02% 32 Jeep 2.783 0,16%
33 Aro 141 0,01% 33 Bolloré 117 0,01%
34 Ferrari 131 0,01% 34 Subaru 731 0,04%
35 Jeep 131 0,01% 35 Jaguar 715 0,04%
36 Triumph 116 0,01% 36 Infiniti 678 0,04%
37 Santana 109 0,01% 37 Maserati 429 0,02%
38 Matra 58 0,00% 38 SsangYong 344 0,02%
Others 194 39 Tesla 328 0,02%
Total market 1.763.106 40 Ferrari 176 0,01%
41 Lotus 78 0,00%
42 Aston Martin 67 0,00%
43 Bentley 60 0,00%
Others 235
Total market 1.794.862
French brands 1.120.044 63,53% French brands 890.052 49,59%
French incl. Dacia 992.571 55,30%

Other manufacturers which have lost a lot of ground as well are Ford (down 3,38 percentage points, from #4 and best selling import down to #6), Opel (down 26.000 units and from #5 to #9), and Fiat (down from 4,22% market share to 2,55% and from #7 to #13).

France-car_sales-1985-2014-Volkswagen_GolfWhen there are losers, there must be winners, and Volkswagen has improved greatly in France, growing almost 62% in volume and moving up from #6 to # 4 and best selling foreign brand. When we include Audi, Seat and newly introduced Skoda as well, the VW Group comes close to a quarter of a million sales in France, almost double its 1985 figure.

The Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Nissan have made great inroads as well, most likely helped by starting local production (the Toyota Yaris is made in France) and Nissan’s merger with local brand Renault. Toyota has seen its sales and market share grow more than fivefold, from under 12.000 units and 0,68% in 19th place to 66.775 sales and 3,72% share in #8. That leave it just behind Nissan at 68.072 sales and 3,79% share in #7, up from 15.515 units and 0,88% share for the Datsun brand in 1985.

France-car_sales-1985-2014-BMW_3_series-E30The German Big-3 premium brands have doubled their market share in France, from a combined 4,24% in 1985 to 8,54% in 2014. BMW was ahead of Audi 29 years ago, while Mercedes-Benz was further behind in third place, but last year the brand from Munich had been passed by both its rivals, with Audi in the lead.

Sadly, no less than 13 brands have disappeared (not counting Datsun, which has been renamed to Nissan), for a total of 82.894 sales in 1985, which is just under 5% of that year’s total sales. Local brands Talbot and Matra; Austin, Rover, MG and Triumph from the UK; France-car_sales-1985-2014-ZastavaAutobianchi and Innocenti from Italy; Zastava (remember the Yugo?), Swedish brand Saab, FSO from Poland, Aro from Romania and Santana from Spain have all left the French market, which is an average of one dead brand every two years. And the withdrawal of Chevrolet this year keeps up that average.

In return, we welcome an even larger number of newcomers, the most successful is local Citroën sub-brand DS in #14, followed by Kia and Skoda. Also notice the appearance of Land Rover, Smart and Lexus to the ranking.

With Hyundai in 14th place, Chevrolet at #27 and SsangYong at #38, the South-Koreans combine for a share of just 2,78% in France, which is less than Kia has by itself in the entire European market, where these four brands take almost 6,5% market share.

Rank Model 1985 sales Market share Rank Model 2014 sales Market share
1 Peugeot 205 226.974 12,65% 1 Renault Clio 115.207 6,42%
2 Renault Supercinq 184.218 10,26% 2 Peugeot 208 83.965 4,68%
3 Citroen BX 123.164 6,86% 3 Peugeot 308 64.265 3,58%
4 Renault 11 116.128 6,47% 4 Renault Captur 62.984 3,51%
5 Renault 25 82.696 4,61% 5 Citroen C3 59.628 3,32%
6 Citroen Visa 49.266 2,74% 6 Peugeot 2008 54.161 3,02%
7 Ford Fiesta 46.359 2,58% 7 Renault Scenic 49.068 2,73%
8 Renault 9 45.747 2,55% 8 Citroen C4 Picasso 45.722 2,55%
9 Opel Corsa 44.742 2,49% 9 Renault Megane 44.791 2,50%
10 VW Golf 41.323 2,30% 10 Dacia Sandero 44.357 2,47%
11 Peugeot 305 40.468 2,25% 11 Renault Twingo 42.017 2,34%
12 Ford Escort 38.252 2,13% 12 Volkswagen Polo 40.407 2,25%
13 Peugeot 505 33.430 1,86% 13 Dacia Duster 40.167 2,24%
14 Renault 4 33.414 1,86% 14 Peugeot 3008 37.970 2,12%
15 Fiat Uno 31.234 1,74% 15 Volkswagen Golf 37.489 2,09%
16 Ford Sierra 30.281 1,69% 16 Nissan Qashqai 30.024 1,67%
17 Renault 18 28.152 1,57% 17 Toyota Yaris 27.234 1,52%
18 VW Polo 26.736 1,49% 18 Citroen C4 26.158 1,46%
19 Opel Kadett 24.514 1,37% 19 Ford Fiesta 24.916 1,39%
20 Peugeot 104 22.873 1,27% 20 Fiat 500 22.099 1,23%
21 Peugeot 309 21.114 1,18% 21 Opel Corsa 18.633 1,04%
22 Fiat Panda 20.396 1,14% 22 Peugeot 508 18.357 1,02%
23 BMW 3-Series 19.644 1,09% 23 Volkswagen Tiguan 17.904 1,00%
24 Citroen CX 17.595 0,98% 24 DS3 17.471 0,97%
25 Citroen 2CV 16.151 0,90% 25 Citroen C3 Picasso 17.262 0,96%

At the model-level, we can conclude the market has fragmented a lot as there were two models above 10% market share in 1985, versus none over 6,5% in 2015. This trend is a result of the arrival of new segments like MPVs and crossovers. The 4th place of the Renault Captur and the 7th place of the Scenic confirm this.

France-car_sales-1985-2014-Ford_FiestaWhile in the brand ranking the French are losing ground, the models ranking (source: BSCB) might lead you think otherwise. In 1985, three foreign models were in the top-10, and nine in the top-20. But in 2014, the top-10 was entirely French (including the Dacia Sandero), and only 6 foreign models reached the top-20.

Another trend we can see is the demise of the midsized and large car segments. The large Renault 25 was in fifth place back in the eighties, and the midsized Peugeot 505 was in #13, followed by the Ford Sierra and Renault 18 in #16 and #17, and the Citroën CX in 24th place. France-car_sales-1985-2014-Renault_25-Peugeot_505-Citroen_CXFast forward 29 years, and the first midsized model is the Peugeot 508 in #22, and no large models reach the top-25 (or in fact even barely in the top-100, with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class at #97). These midsized sedans have been replaced by midsized MPVs and SUVs, with the Renault Scenic, Citroen C4 Picasso, Peugeot 3008 and Nissan Qashqai in the top-20.

Finally, which models have held on to their top-25 positions and have still kept the same name after almost 30 years? The Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa and the Volkswagen Polo and Golf. In the nearly three decades, Peugeot has moved from their -05 generation to the -08 generation, at which they’re likely to remain, as the -09 generation risks reminding customers of the 309, which held a respectable 21st place in 1985. In a reverse of an industry-wide trend, Renault has switched from its numerical nomenclature to actual names.

And did you notice the Citroën 2CV at #25? Not bad for a model that was designed in the 1930s and had been on the market virtually unchanged since 1948. It would continue to be sold in France until 1991.

France-car_sales-1985-2014-Citroen_2CV

About Bart Demandt

Bart is a 36-year old Dutchman who’s always had a thing for cars, the automotive industry and statistics. He’s combined these passions by writing about them on CarSalesBase.com. His daily driver is an Alfa Romeo GT 3.2 V6 which he just can’t seem to say goodbye to thanks to the mesmerizing exhaust note.
You can find all his articles Here.

Comments

  1. Andrew Pillay says:

    Great! Your article has some qualities rare amongst car articles – informed, informative, insightful and genuinely interesting without being dense with technical data.

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