French incentives accelerate auto sales

AFTER cars, why not refrigerators or socks?

That is what some officials in France are wondering after the initial success of the government's fiscal incentives for putting some life back into the country's moribund automobile sector. With car sales having picked up markedly since the measures were announced in February, some officials are asking why similar consumer-boosting moves could not be extended to such high-volume -

and employment intensive - sectors as consumer electronics or textiles.

Widespread skepticism greeted the government when it announced that between February and the end of June it would in effect give 5,000 francs (about $875) to anyone trading in a car at least 10 years old on a new car.

But February sales outstripped January's by 54,000 cars, and officials now say this and two lesser measures could add 180,000 sales to a market of about 1.9 million units.

Some Industry Ministry officials say similar incentives for appliances, furnishings, or even textiles might cheer up consumers. New measures could come, they say, as early as June. Just in time to boost the swimsuit market?

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