By Laurence Frost
PARIS (Reuters) - French car sales fell back in October as consumers put off big purchases amid weakening economic confidence, the country's CCFA industry association said on Monday.
Registrations fell 3.8 percent to 160,162 cars last month, the CCFA said -- the first year-on-year decline since February after adjusting for the number of selling days each month.
"We're in a context where all the indicators are pointing to the postponement of purchasing, falling confidence and deflation risk," association spokesman François Roudier said. "This is the perfect illustration."
France, the euro zone's second-biggest car market, has lagged behind an already fragile recovery from a brutal six-year demand slump in the region. French car sales for January-October are up just 1.4 percent, and Roudier said the CCFA's 2 percent full-year growth forecast would be reviewed in coming weeks.
Spain, one of the markets worst hit in the crisis, said on Monday its October car sales were up more than a quarter from the previous year - a 14th consecutive monthly gain helped by government sales incentives.
Demand also appeared to perk up last month in Italy, where sales rose 9.2 percent, but the year-on-year comparison was flattered by unusually weak sales in October 2013, according to industry grouping UNRAE.
"Sales to families, the real test of the market's health, remain stagnant at levels close to last year's," association president Massimo Nordio said.
After two consecutive quarters of zero economic growth, French companies and consumers alike are holding back on spending where they can, increasing concerns that Europe could fall into a deflationary spiral.
The domestic auto market leaders, Renault (RENA.PA) and PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA), nevertheless put up strong resistance with respective October declines of 0.4 and 1.5 percent.
Thanks to robust demand for new models such as the Peugeot 308 compact and Renault Captur mini-SUV, the French carmakers have lifted their combined domestic market share to 56.1 percent in the first 10 months, from 53.6 percent a year earlier.
European market leader Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) fared less well, posting a 4.8 percent decline in French registrations, while U.S. automakers plunged.
Ford's (F.N) deliveries dropped 6.8 percent, while the withdrawal of the Chevrolet brand from Europe hit General Motors (GM.N) with a 22 percent sales decline despite the Opel brand's 13 percent gain.
French delivery van registrations fell 4.5 percent in October, the CCFA also said, bringing the sales decline for light vehicles overall to 3.9 percent.
(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Andres Gonzalez in Madrid; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)
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