PARIS -- French new car sales fell for the seventh consecutive month in April, skidding 13 percent as uncertainties linked to the war in Iraq and domestic economic troubles weighed heavily on consumer spending.
French carmaking association Comite des Constructeurs Francais d'Automobiles (CCFA) said on Friday that preliminary calculations showed new car sales fell to 180,824 units in April from 207,891 last year, when sales for the month were at their strongest level in 15 years.
For the first four months of 2003, French car sales are down 8.9 percent, much weaker than the broader European market which was off 2.4 percent in the first quarter of the year.
"Beyond the effects of the international situation, the auto market is suffering from a pervading sluggishness," the CCFA said in a statement.
French joblessness is at its highest level in two-and-a-half years and consumer confidence is hovering near its lowest levels in more than six years.
Economists have warned that unemployment fears are likely to drag down household spending further as the year progresses. Worries over pension reform could also hamper consumer outlays.
In March, the last month for which figures are available, French consumer spending edged up 0.3 percent from the month before.
The CCFA figures showed a strong performance from Asian carmakers, with Japanese manufacturers bucking the broader market to post a 13.0 percent rise in April sales. Nissan Motor, in which French carmaker Renault holds a 44 percent stake, saw sales surge 33.9 percent during the month.
Korean carmakers also shone, showing a 41.3 percent surge in sales for April and bringing their gains for the year to 29.8 percent.
French carmakers PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Renault SA saw domestic sales fall 16.1 percent and 13.0 percent, respectively, in April.