By on January 11, 2012

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Over the past weeks we have flown into ZimbabweNew CaledoniaIceland and The Entire World (yes Sir!), this week it is time to stop in my own country, France. Yes I know I am confusing you, I am based in Australia but come from France… Only the French…

Now if Paris, baguettes, berets and grumpy old men are not your tasse de cafe au lait that’s ok, rest assured I won’t be offended because I have prepared 159 additional countries for you to visit in my blog, so don’t be shy and click away, oui oui!

Well this year in France the best-selling model had not been in that position in 5 years…Oh la la!

French car sales are down just 2% in 2011 at 2,204,065 in 2011, which is an outstanding performance in the current economic context. For the first time since 2006 the Renault Clio 3rd generation is the best-selling car in the country with 123,827 sales and 5.6 percent share, stable on last year. Boosted by heavy promotions on its petrol version, the Clio hit the 3rd generation’s highest market share in September at 9.4 percent.

It is the 13th time in the nameplate’s 20 year-life that the Clio finishes the year in pole position in France, making it the 2nd most successful nameplate below the Renault 5/Supercinq (14 times). The first year the Clio was #1 was 1992 when it sold 233,209 units for a 11.1 percent market share - See all the years the Clio ranked #1 here.

Losing its crown for the first time in a full year (it was #1 since its first full year in market in 2007), the Peugeot 207 is #2 with 103,321 sales and 4.7 percent share, down 19 percent. A difficult year for Peugeot’s best-seller but its successor the 208 has already been unveiled and will go on sale in March 2012.

Helped by the new generation of the model now if full swing, the Citroen C3 is up 8 percent on 2010, climbing up to #3 with 79,364 sales and 3.3 percent share. It is the first time a Citroen ranks on the French podium in 26 years! Since the Citroen BX was #3 in 1985 with 7 percent of the market

The C3 is only the 6th Citroen to claw its way onto the annual French podium since 1945 with the Traction Avant, 2CV, Ami 6, GS and BX.

It is followed by 3 Renaults: the Mégane at 78,861 units (-1 percent)..

Twingo at 68,265 sales (-26 percent)..

and Scénic at 66,360 units (-12 percent).

Boosted by a light facelift, the Peugeot 308 is up one spot to #7.

Best-selling foreign model for the 2nd year in a row, the VW Polo takes advantage of a fantastic end of year to gain 10 percent and 4 spots on 2010 to #8 at 53,582 units and 2.4 percent share. This is the highest year-end ranking reached by a foreign model in 15 years! Since the Ford Fiesta ranked #8 in 1996

The next two models make their first appearance ever in the French year-end Top 10: the Peugeot 3008 continues to progress at +7 percent and +2 spots on 2010 to #9 with 53,297 sales and 2.4 percent share. It broke into the monthly Top 5 for the first time in May at #5.

The Dacia Duster is the success story of the year: it sells 51,612 units for its first full year, landing at #10. This is the first time in the history of the automobile in France that an SUV/4WD ranks within the year-end Top 10. The Duster ranked #1 for one week in April and broke into the monthly Top 5 for the first time in November at #5.

The new generation Citroen C4 ramped up all through the year to break into the Top 10 in December, finishing 2011 at #12.

Excellent performance of the Citroen DS3 up to #17 with 33,015 sales and 1.5 percent share…

…and the Nissan Qashqai breaking into the French year-end Top 20 for the first time at #19, up 17 percent. It is one of only 5 foreign models in the Top 25 below the Polo, Ford Fiesta, VW Golf and Opel Corsa (Owned at 100% by Renault, Dacia is considered a French brand). It is also the first time ever Nissan manages to place a model in the French year-end Top 20.

All-new this year, the Peugeot 508 lands directly in Top 20 with 28,507 sales, already leader in its category ahead of the Citroen C5 (#24), Renault Laguna (#26) and VW Passat (#36). Further down the ranking, the Ford C-Max up 67 percent to #27, the Nissan Juke landing directly #32 and already flirting with the monthly Top 20 and the Audi A1 the brand’s best-seller straight from its first full year at #45.

France Full Year 2011 Top 30

Model 2011 % /10 2010 % Pos
Renault Clio 123,827 5.6% 0% 123,730 5.5% 1
Peugeot 207 103,321 4.7% -19% 126,854 5.6% 2
Citroen C3 79,364 3.6% 8% 73,593 3.3% 6
Renault Mégane 78,861 3.6% -1% 79,507 3.5% 4
Renault Twingo 68,235 3.1% -26% 92,167 4.1% 3
Renault Scénic 66,360 3.0% -12% 75,459 3.4% 5
Peugeot 308 62,274 2.8% -2% 63,395 2.8% 8
VW Polo 53,582 2.4% 10% 48,805 2.2% 12
Peugeot 3008 53,297 2.4% 7% 50,027 2.2% 11
Dacia Duster 51,612 2.3% 166% 19,437 0.9% 31
Citroen C4 Picasso 46,982 2.1% -9% 51,632 2.3% 10
Citroen C4 46,391 2.1% 772% 5,319 0.2% n/a
Ford Fiesta 45,014 2.0% -1% 45,512 2.0% 13
Peugeot 206+ 44,180 2.0% -21% 56,135 2.5% 9
VW Golf 43,974 2.0% 2% 43,154 1.9% 14
Opel Corsa 38,667 1.8% 2% 38,016 1.7% 15
Citroen DS3 33,015 1.5% 25% 26,417 1.2% 23
Citroen C3 Picasso 31,139 1.4% -2% 31,703 1.4% 18
Nissan Qashqai 29,701 1.3% 17% 25,468 1.1% 24
Peugeot 508 28,507 1.3% new 397 0.0% n/a
Peugeot 5008 27,897 1.3% 3% 27,005 1.2% 22
Dacia Sandero 27,323 1.2% -60% 68,016 3.0% 7
Renault Modus 27,038 1.2% -1% 27,429 1.2% 21
Citroen C5 26,017 1.2% -7% 27,932 1.2% 20
Renault Clio Campus 25,217 1.1% -33% 37,679 1.7% 16
Renault Laguna 23,798 1.1% 6% 22,413 1.0% 26
Ford C-Max 23,101 1.0% 67% 13,866 0.6% 42
Citroen C1 22,945 1.0% -27% 31,467 1.4% 19
Mini 21,700 1.0% 21% 18,007 0.8% 35
Toyota Yaris 21,484 1.0% 12% 19,101 0.8% 33

You can see the Full Year 2011 French Top 392 here

You can see each year’s best-selling models in France since 1949 here. (Scroll down to the table and click on the year to see the detailed ranking)

And now for the golden nugget: the Renault 4CV you can see in the video at the start of the article was the first mass-produced car in France and the first one to pass the 1 million units mark. It was unveiled at the 1946 Paris Motor Show, started production in August 1947 and already sold over 50,000 units for a mammoth 29 percent market share in 1950! See the Top 15 best-selling models in France in 1950 here.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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25 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: The French Go Back To The Clio...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Only 8 of the top 30 vehicles listed were not French.
    Imagine if that was true in the US, what the effect that would have on our economy.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    French cars make the VW Polo look attractive.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    got to admit, these pictures show the worst looking cars I have ever laid eyes on, except for the Pontiac Aztek maybe, God the French must be masochists to drive horrors like these. It’s a wonder why they gave up La Bicyclette, come on guys, you can do better designs than that, I mean just look at the Peugeot with a square foot emblem on the hood, what an advertisement for an otherwise passably fair looking vehicle, but the emblem makes it definitely UGLI

  • avatar
    srogers

    Here’s the ol’ “eye of the beholder” in action.
    I think that they all look really good. Except the Citroen C4 which looks more conventional and looks just good instead of really good (and the CUVs which look like… CUVs).

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    Yup, I’m crazy, but I love those French cars like I love my women…
    zany and with character.

    I’m still in love with the 2003 Citroen C3 I tore up the back roads of Ireland in. Cheap ‘n cheerful, like a carafe of vin de table!

    It also began making disturbing mechanical sounds during my time with it…
    not surprising since it was “built in a factory with a dirt floor by a bunch of disgruntled Algerians,” as Jeremy Clarkson characteristically put it.

    Judging by the German inspection reports (5 of the bottom 10), that’s not the least reason we’ll never see ‘em again in North America.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    the French used to build fairly good looking cars, like the Renault Dauphine, which cannot compare even with the Renault 4L, ugliest piece of metal on four wheels. Of course the Citroen DS19 and ID19 were unusual designs for the times and even now, but engineering marvels found in no other cars, not even today.

    My thinking is that they must have guillotined the design studio folks who created the Dauphine.

    The Simca Oceane was another beautiful vehicle, but Simca is long gone, right Sergio

  • avatar
    Littlecarrot

    Matt, I also looked at the top 100 list.There are a lot of reliable and good performing cars near the bottom of that list.Do the French have an equivalent of Consumer Reports or are they more nationalistic about their cars and car purchases?

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Littlecarrot (I like the nick), yes there is Consumer Reports in France but the French have always been very nationalistic when it comes to choosing a car.
      A foreign model has to really earn each sale in the country, either with price, or outstanding quality.
      Audi has been a runaway success in France in the last 5 years or so for example. VW has a history of being the top importer in the country for most years since the late 80s so it carries on each year.
      However French consumers are starting to feel a bit confused (understandably) as it becomes common knowledge that a large part of the French models sold in France are actually built outside the country (eg the Clio in Slovenia) and some foreign models are built in France (the Toyota Yaris)…

      • 0 avatar
        Littlecarrot

        Just as I thought. I had a Renault Le Car in the early eighties…I thought it was a decent car, I sure wish I had it now…in a kinda of hipster ironic way.

      • 0 avatar
        ManuelFaber

        Sure nationalism is called in France chauvinism, but it depends, French are always remarking the next border quality “Deutsche Qualitat” is a label in France haha ….

        In any case, French state holds 15% of Renault ! and French disgust with Renault when offshoring…

  • avatar
    obruni

    I had the unfortunate luck of renting a 308 over the summer (I booked a Megane, go figure) and it is soooo ugly in person, even worse than the photos. it has PSA’s 6 speed EGC semi-automatic box, with very noticeable shift points.

    unlike the Peugeots, the Clio has aged very well.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Nissan Qashqai is Rouge with different front clip, too bad we’re stuck with Rogue.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Qashqai is based on the Renault Magane and the Rouge on the Nissan X-trail… As far as I know. Technicalities anyhow because there is not much difference between Nissan and Renault now, possibly explaining why Nissan’s are so much better these days.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I’ve never really wanted a “Quatre Chevaux” before, but after watching and listening to her talk about ‘em, even though I don’t understand a doggone word, I’m feeling strangely attracted . . . .

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Aside from nationalistic pride the Clio is simply a very good car and oddly enough a good product leads to good sales.
    Clio sells very well in other markets outside of France to, I believe.

  • avatar
    ManuelFaber

    Salut, je savais pas que tu étais français, je te félicite pour ton blog, bravo !

  • avatar
    rayb2403

    i love old french cars have owned many peugeots and citroens in the past, however i think modern french metal is getting a little to mainstream, however i guess thats what the masses want, a lot of the french cars lately have a reliability record which is shameful. The peugeots and citroens of old were most reliable….espeially the old xud diesel units.


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