Automotive industry in France - statistics & facts
On January 16, 2021, the merger between the Italian American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the French PSA Group rattled the status quo of the French automotive industry. Peugeot—the PSA Group’s eponymous subsidiary—was the best-selling car brand in France in 2021, while Citroën came in third. The PSA Group was integral to the French automotive industry’s impact on the global automotive market. In 2020, the Renault Group and Peugeot S.A. held an aggregated eight percent of the global passenger car production and were the leading automakers based in France. However, while Peugeot S.A.’s merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles drastically changed the market, it was also lucrative—Stellantis was the fourth-leading automaker worldwide in 2021, with revenues above 176.6 billion U.S. dollars.
The French automotive industry is still primarily dominated by French brands, with France’s Renault selling around 6,000 more battery electric vehicles than Tesla, the global BEV market leader. France’s automotive manufacturing industry recorded approximately 85 billion euros in net sales in 2020, a drop of 22 percent amid production halts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This decrease in revenue coincided with a decline in sales, which is yet to recover from the pandemic. Automotive semiconductor shortages decreased the new vehicle supply in the country. In 2021, France reported around 1.66 million new passenger cars and 483,279 commercial vehicle sales—respective increases of 0.5 and 7.42 percent year-over-year, still below the country’s 2019 sales volume.
The struggle to recover amid semiconductor shortages
Direct employment in the automotive industry increased in 2019 after a period of decline from 2014 to 2018. Still, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased unemployment in the sector, which reported around 216,000 full-time equivalent employees in 2020. The pandemic also led to a sharp decrease in the auto manufacturing industry’s production per employee, which dropped to around 12.2 units per worker amid the production halts and lockdowns. With the global automotive semiconductor shortage generating supply chain issues in 2021 and 2022, France’s production volume has been struggling to recover. In 2021, the country produced around 1.35 million motor vehicles, up from 1.32 million in 2020 but down from 2.2 million in 2019. While passenger car production had already been dipping in 2019, the pandemic and chip shortage accelerated this decline. While cars were still the primary vehicle type produced in France, commercial vehicles were the only ones with an increased output in 2021.
Diesel cars used to benefit from high popularity in 2010 but quickly lost their momentum, with new registrations dipping by nearly 25 percent between 2010 and 2013. Part of this drop in popularity is attributed to increased environmental concerns related to internal combustion engine vehicles. Battery electric vehicles amounted to under 10 percent of car sales in 2021, a share which rose to 18.27 when adding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. As of November 2021, French consumers still considered themselves poorly informed on electric vehicle (EV) ownership. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents believed themselves poorly informed on EVs’ usage costs compared to a petrol or diesel car, with 54 percent reporting poor information on EVs’ environmental impact.
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