French new car registrations hit a 15-year low point in 2012 and business looks like it will be just as tough this year, data from the French automobile manufacturers' association CCFA showed on Wednesday, mirroring slumps seen elsewhere in the 17-nation eurozone.

In France, auto sales fell by 13.9 percent in 2012 to 1.899 million.

The drop was compounded by the end of government-funded buying schemes that had boosted sales between 2009 and early 2011.

The worst hit companies were Peugeot Citroen, where sales shrank by 17.5 percent, and Renault, down by 22 percent.

Foreign builders saw an overall drop of 6.7 percent, but deliveries by German luxury car companies Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz actually grew, while those by the South Korean group Hyundai-Kia literally took off.

All the multi-range car companies shrank, while higher end carmakers held on.”

A spokesman at CCFA said: “The drop in sales of light utility vehicles and trucks is very worrying as it signals a slowdown in the economy,” the spokesman added.

A huge exception to the poor results was Hyundai-Kia which saw sales skyrocket 28.2 percent to take a 2.19 percent market share.

“We are waiting for a 2013 market to be at best like that of 2012. We'll look for the trend in the first quarter,” the spokesman said.

Elsewhere across the eurozone, registrations of new cars in Italy fell by 19.87 percent last year to 1.4 million, plunged by 37.9 percent in Portugal and lost 14.94 percent in Belgium.

In Spain, automakers said they anticipated a “complicated” situation in 2013, after sales fell by 13.4 percent in 2012 to just under 700 000 vehicles.- AFP