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Renault group sales fall 5.9% in 2022, Europe order book at record levels

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PARIS (Reuters) - Renault group sales in 2022 fell 5.9% to 2,051,174 vehicles, marking a fourth consecutive annual decline after capacity constraints and supply chain snags, the company said on Wednesday.

The group, which is in the middle of a turnaround, said its order book in Europe was at a record level of 3.5 months of sales.

A day after publishing a 9.4% decline in 2022 sales for its flagship Renault brand, it said that had been partly offset by the performance of its low-cost brand Dacia, which posted a 6.8% increase in sales.

The French carmaker, which was hit harder than most rivals by the COVID-19 crisis and a global chip shortage, is betting on higher-margin and electric cars to boost profits.

It said on Tuesday that the Renault brand, which accounts for two-thirds of group sales, was the third European brand for electrified vehicle sales behind Toyota and Tesla with 228,000 units sold, an increase of 12% from 2021.

The company says it is starting the year with a better portfolio and higher stocks, giving it confidence it can return to sales growth in 2023.

But its executives have acknowledged that global price cuts announced recently by Tesla were an issue that Renault - like rivals - would have to contend with.

Separately, the sales head at Renault's premium sports brand Alpine said the brand aims to maintain strong sales growth of its sole car currently on offer, the A110 premium sedan, in 2023.

"We are going to increase production by about 20%", Emmanuel Al Nawakil told journalists on Wednesday.

The brand, whose sales jumped by 33% in 2022, said it will also rely upon additional models in the coming years to pump up volumes - a small electric city car from 2024, followed by a compact SUV in 2025 and a new version of the A110.

It is also exploring the possibility of launching two larger SUVs, probably electric.

In November, Renault announced a major overhaul that will see it separate its activities into five businesses, deepen ties with China's Geely and spin off its electric vehicles unit through a stock market listing this year. It is also in talks with Japanese partner Nissan to restructure their long-standing alliance.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Gilles Guillaume; editing by Jason Neely and Bernadete Baum)