MOSCOW (AP) -- Car sales in Russia dropped by 37 percent in January as the recession continues to hurt the industry, a leading business group said Monday.
The year-on-year decline is significant considering the fact that January 2009 saw very weak sales, the Association of European Businesses said in a statement, but the magnitude of the decline can be attributed a highly volatile ruble in January 2009.
"January sales are traditionally weak," Marin Jahn, the vice-chairman of the car makers' committee at the AEB, said. "We expect a revival in the market already in February."
Of the top 10 best-selling models in January, nine are locally produced, with AvtoVAZ and General Motors Co. the top selling car makers.
Russian car sales halved in 2009, the sharpest decline of any major market. Russia was on track to become Europe's largest car market in 2008 before the downturn hit the country, freezing credit markets and destroying thousands of jobs. Car sales in Russia are now back to 2005 levels.
Analysts largely expect the sales to remain flat in 2010 or improve slightly.
In a bid to spur sales, the government is launching a hugely anticipated scrappage scheme in March -- similar to the cash-for-clunkers programs that boosted sales across Europe and the United States in 2009.