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French auto market faces worst year since 1997: CCFA

PARIS (Reuters) - The French auto market is on course for its worst performance in 15 years in 2012, the CCFA industry association said as it reported a 19.2 percent drop in November new car registrations.

The CCFA forecast on Monday that the French market would decline by 13-15 percent this year, most likely around 14 percent. This compared with its previous estimate of a drop of at least 12 percent.

"That will give us a market that will be below 1.9 million vehicles in 2012, and you need to go back to 1997 to find a worse year," CCFA Chairman Patrick Blain told reporters.

November declines were led by France's Renault and Japanese partner Nissan <7201.T>, and U.S. automaker General Motors , according to the latest CCFA figures.

Automakers are facing a sustained slump in the European car market against the backdrop of the euro zone debt crisis and government austerity measures.

French registrations fell to 144,694 last month, contributing to an eleven-month drop of 13.8 percent, the CCFA said.

Renault group French new car registrations fell 33.5 percent in November, while domestic rival PSA Peugeot Citroen saw a drop of 22.9 percent.

Nissan suffered a 29.4 percent year-on-year decline in November, while U.S. carmakers General Motors and Ford saw decreases of 25.8 percent and 21.4 percent respectively.

German premium carmakers bucked the trend, with Volkswagen's Audi brand achieving a 1 percent rise in November car registrations, while BMW group had a 4.2 percent rise and Daimler's Mercedes brand saw an 18.5 percent increase.

South Korea's Hyundai <005380.KS> was the French market's best performer last month, with a 20.5 percent rise.

(Reporting by James Regan and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Blaise Robinson and Christian Plumb)

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