MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The collapse of the Russian car market worsened in April, with sales of new vehicles falling 53 percent year-on-year, compared with a 47 percent fall in March, a leading business association said on Tuesday.
Russians' spending has been curbed by job losses and salary cuts as the once-buoyant economy enters its first recession in a decade.
Jobless rates have hit 10 percent, with 8.7 million people unemployed, on forced holiday or unpaid leave while consumer confidence plumbed a 10-year low in the first quarter.
The Association of European Businesses said on Tuesday sales of new cars fell 44 percent in the first four months of 2009, meaning that 413,156 fewer vehicles were sold than in the same period of 2008.
"The slowdown of the car market in Russia has stabilized, and we ... believe that the key factor ensuring future development and supporting sales is financing," said Martin Jahn, Vice Chairman of the AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee in a statement.
In April AEB cut its forecast for full-year car sales to 1.7 million, which would represent a 46 percent fall from 2008, when 3.2 million cars were sold in Russia.
The country had been firmly on its way to overtake Germany as Europe's largest car market before the crisis hit consumer confidence and cheap credit evaporated.
A 35 percent ruble devaluation over the past six months has also pushed foreign brands out of the reach of more Russians.
The government has announced some measures to help the sector, but analysts have said more should be done to stimulate demand rather than help struggling producers directly.
The government has pledged aid to top Russian carmakers to avert sharp job losses and to provide subsidies for car loans, including to foreign makers, some of which have been forced to halt output at Russian plants due to low demand.