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Renault First Half Sales Fall

France's second-largest automaker said vehicle sales fell 16.5 percent to 1.106 million cars in the first half of the year.

PARIS (AP) -- Carmaker Renault SA said Friday that vehicle sales fell 16.5 percent in the first half of the year, a similar rate of decline as the global market, where the economic crisis is ravaging car sales.

France's second-largest auto maker said it sold 1.106 million cars and light trucks in the first six months of the year, down from 1.326 million a year earlier. In June, the decline was 0.9 percent.

But while the company kept its 3.7 percent share of the global market, it reported a 0.5 point loss in market share at home in France after a drop in short term leasing sales.

Renault gained market share in Germany, Spain and Belgium, but lost in Italy and Britain.

Sales of Renault-branded vehicles fell 21.5 percent, while sales of low-cost Romanian Dacia brand rose 20.3 percent.

In a statement Friday, the company said that in the first half it had "significantly positive" cash flow -- the funds a company is able to generate after maintaining or expanding assets. In February Renault said its single priority for 2009 was to achieve positive cash flow.

The automotive industry is struggling as customers shy away from big-ticket buys, forcing some governments to step in to help stem massive job losses. In the United States, both Chrysler and General Motors are exiting bankruptcy with the federal government as a major shareholder.

Renault, which is getting a euro3 billion ($4.24 billion) rescue loan from the French government, is bound by an agreement with President Nicolas Sarkozy not to make forced redundancies in France this year.

Still, CEO Carlos Ghosn has said the payroll will fall by 9,000 to a total of 120,000 this year. That will come from 6,000 voluntary job cuts announced in September and an additional 3,000 positions which will left unfilled as people leave of their own volition.

In the first three months of the year, Renault's sales fell 30.8 percent to euro7.1 billion.

Full first-half results will be announced July 30.

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