PARIS -- French new car sales fell 7.9 percent in February from a year ago as fears over the economy and a possible war in Iraq drove motorists out of showrooms, the country's industry body said on Monday.
French carmaking association Comite des Constructeurs Francais d'Automobiles (CCFA) said sales of new cars fell to 159,441 units in February from 173,064 in the same period last year. The decline came after French car sales tumbled almost 9 percent in January, as shaky economic conditions made consumers think twice about splashing out on pricey items.
Domestic carmaking duo Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen saw combined sales fall 11.9 percent to 96,493 units. Sales at Renault, which also posted a decline in January, dropped 16 percent to 41,676 units.
The dip could revive fears over Renault's performance in a year that is meant to mark its return to strong growth thanks to a string of snazzy new models.
PSA, which bucked a flagging western European market to boost global car sales in 2002, saw sales drop 8.5 percent in France to 54,811, the CCFA said.
The figures come as the world's carmakers converge on Geneva for the annual auto show there, aiming to cut through war clouds and economic gloom with sharp new models they hope will dazzle motorists into spending.
Dwindling car sales drove consumer spending in Europe's second biggest economy lower in January, but the slide was not as severe as had been predicted.