PARIS -- French carmaker Renault SA on Wednesday reported a smaller-than-expected rise in third-quarter sales but said the launch of the new Clio model would boost turnover in the fourth quarter.
Renault said third-quarter group revenue was up 1.04 percent at 9.542 billion euros ($11.51 billion), falling short of analysts' average forecast for a rise to 9.675 billion.
The company, the world's number 10 car maker by vehicle production, with its Renault, Dacia and Samsung brands, said auto sales were up 1.1 percent at 9.076 billion euros, against expectations of 9.161 billion euros.
Car sales had grown 8.6 percent in the second quarter, and overall sales 8.1 percent.
"It is probably confirming the view that momentum is now slowing down and turning negative," said analyst Sabine Blumel at Banca IMI in London.
The turnover performance was against a background of a weak European market for Renault, as industry body ACEA estimated the group's car registrations in the European Union plus EFTA countries were down 6.3 percent year-on-year in September and down 3.3 percent for the first nine months.
For nine months, total revenue rose 2.9 percent to 30.866 billion euros, with car sales were up 3.1 percent.
"The growth in sales reflects the success of the Logan program which, after launching production in Romania, has now also come on stream in Russia, Morocco and Columbia," it said.
"After a third quarter of contrasting developments, the fourth quarter should see the group benefit from the anticipated performance of New Clio. Order levels for the new model are encouraging in the main countries in which it has been launched," it added.
Renault made no changes to its outlook. At the half year stage it said it expected an operating margin higher than 4 percent of revenues against a stable market share in Western Europe and continuous sales growth outside that area.
Renault has a 44.4 percent stake in Japan's Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Carlos Ghosn is president and chief executive of both groups.
Renault launched the much-awaited mid-sized Clio III car in September, its only big roll-out since the Modus small car in 2004, which is selling below expectations. It will keep selling the Slovakia-made Clio II under the name "Campus", while it delayed the replacement for the Twingo small car until 2007.
Renault's line-up of compact cars -- the biggest segment in Europe with the likes of Volkswagen's Golf, Opel's Astra and Ford's Focus -- is the Megane/Scenic range, which managed a small first-half sales rise.
But the JD Power-LMC Automotive Forecasting Services estimate production of this Renault range to be down by over 10 percent over the first nine months of the year, to 607,250 vehicles, compared with 2004.