Russia Overtakes Germany to Become Europe’s Biggest Car Market

Russia surpassed Germany as Europe’s biggest auto market in the first half as sales rose 41 percent to 1.65 million cars, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said.

Spending on autos increased 64 percent to a record $33.8 billion, buoyed by $27 billion of imports, the accounting firm said today in an e-mailed report, citing data from a PwC study, Russia’s statistics and customs offices and Moscow consultant ASM.

Russia is becoming Europe’s top car market earlier than forecast by manufacturers as a 10th straight year of growth in the country’s oil-based economy coincides with declining auto sales further west. Renault SA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said Jan. 30 that Russia would overtake Germany within two years, while Ford Motor Co. European chief John Fleming said June 7 it might do so in 2009.

“Russia may become Europe’s biggest market in 2008 after surpassing Germany in the six months,” PwC partner Stanley Root said in the report. He cited figures from Germany’s VDA trade group published July 2 which show car sales in Europe’s biggest economy rose 4 percent to 1.63 million in the first half.

Russian auto sales are likely to reach 3.8 million this year if the present level of demand is sustained, PwC said. German deliveries may total 3.2 million, according to the VDA.

Russian imports of foreign cars jumped 54 percent to 785,000 in the six months, almost half the total, and purchases of locally made foreign cars rose 41 percent to 290,000, PwC said. General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet cars were the most popular, with sales reaching 103,735, the accountant said.

Russia will account for 20 percent of global growth in car sales through 2015, according to the report.

The accounting firm’s figures include sales of cars made in Russia by local manufacturers, cars made in Russia by foreign companies, new cars made overseas and then imported to Russia and used foreign cars imported to Russia.

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