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France's Car Bonus Program Boosts Renault Sales

Renault's December orders up 40 percent, boosted by a government-sponsored $1300 bonus for French consumers who traded in old cars for new lower-emission models.

ARGENTEUIL, France (AP) -- Orders for Renault cars were boosted in December by a government-sponsored euro1,000 ($1300) bonus for French consumers who trade in old cars for new lower-emission models, a top executive at the automaker said Tuesday.

The measure, introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Dec. 4, is part of a euro26 billion ($35 billion) stimulus plan designed to ward off the worst of the economic crisis and shore up automakers.

During a visit to a Renault SA dealer in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, chief operating officer Patrick Pelata told government ministers Patrick Devedjian and Luc Chatel that the bonus "allows us to cushion ourselves from this crisis."

Renault calculates that orders in December were 40 percent higher in France than they would have been without the incentive, he said. The French car maker has extended the bonus scheme to car buyers trading in older models for younger used cars, he said.

The orders will show up in vehicle registrations in February and March, Renault spokeswoman Nathalie Bourotte said.

In December, new car registrations plunged 16 percent from a year earlier, the French carmakers association said Monday. Registrations for the 12 months of 2008 were 0.6 percent lower than 2007.

To deal with the crisis, Renault has been reducing inventories by cutting or temporarily halting production on some sites.

Pelata said the car maker has beat its goal of cutting stocks of vehicles and parts. Inventories were less than euro5.9 billion at the end of 2008, compared with euro6.4 billion in July, he said.

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