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France car registrations rise as diesel's share drops

media A technician uses a portable emissions measurement system on a PSA Citroën car Reuters/Benoit Tessier/File

New car registrations in France rose 4.74 percent to over two million in 2017, carmakers report, but the share of highly polluting diesel fell to below half as the effects of long-term subsidies decline.

Although there was a slight fall of 0.51 percent in December, the number of new cars registered in 2017 rose nearly five percent to 2,110,751, according to the industry body, the CCFA.

November saw a leap of 10.3 percent, thanks to improving economic prospects and a rise in demand for SUVs, which are now produced nearly all companies.

The rise confirms a return to form that started in 2015 after being interrupted by the 2008-9 financial crisis.

Diesel's share down

And it took place despite the continuing decline in the share of diesel-powered vehicles to 47.29 percent, less than half for the first time since 2000.

Diesel had three-quarters of the French market five years ago, due to decades of tax relief to help French carmakers and subsidise commercial fleets.

But several French cities are now considering banning diesel vehicles because of their high level of fine particle emissions, which have been linked to a number of health dangers, including cancer.

Sales have also been hit by the scandal over Volkswagen's fixing of emissions tests.

French firms grab lion's share

French car companies grabbed the largest share of 2017's increase at 6.7 percent, compared to 2.4 percent for foreign firms.

Despite its specialisation in diesel vehicles, PSA registrations soared 15.57 percent.

Electric cars represented 1.18 percent of the market and hybrids 3.8 percent.

The growth is expected to continue in 2018 but at a slower pace to 2.2 million new registrations.

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