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Auto Industry

Russia eyes top spot as European car sales market

Carmakers have sold a record number of vehicles in Russia. The country has come close to overtaking Germany as Europe's biggest car sales market, but future growth may be hard to secure in both nations.

Sales of cars and light commercial vehicles hit a record level in Russia throughout 2012, rising by 10.6 percent to 2.94 million units, the Association for European Businesses (AEB) reported in Moscow on Tuesday.

"Thus, Russia and Germany are in a neck-and-neck race for being Europe's biggest sales market," Marcus Osegovich, the director-general of Volkswagen Group Rus, said in a statement.

He added that VW alone was able to increase its sales on the Russian market by 40 percent last year. Osegovich said he expected Russia to overtake Germany in terms of the number of new registrations by 2015.

Cautious outlook

Foreign automakers have all expanded their operations in Russia since the start of the EU's economic crisis, expecting to do brisk business there.

The statistics from 2012 reveal that Russia's own Lada brand successfully defended its first place on the domestic market, though foreign carmakers claimed the next nine spots, with Chevrolet and Nissan coming in second and third, respectively. The AEB noted that all 10 brands in question were locally produced.

The association warned that the current year holds little promise for much bigger growth, but said 2012's levels could be matched.

hg/mkg (AFP, dpa)