MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Russian new-car sales fell 43 percent last month as the economy slides into recession.
Sales of cars and light commercial vehicles shrank to 139,850 in March from 243,332 a year earlier, the Association of European Businesses in Russia said Wednesday in a statement.
Through March, sales fell 36 percent to 383,691.
Carmakers in Russia are suffering as last year's ruble collapse raises the cost of imported parts and the country's economic woes curb consumer demand.
General Motors will idle a plant in St. Petersburg this year and halt sales of its Opel brand and most Chevrolet models. Other automakers, including Volkswagen Group and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, plan to cut jobs in the country.
"What we are seeing now in the sales statistics is the long-predicted 'hole' in consumer demand, caused by the pull-ahead of car purchases at the end of last year, and compounded by heavy price inflation in the current year," Joerg Schreiber, chairman of the AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee, said in the statement. "The situation will stabilize, but we are not at this point yet."
The AEB has forecast that sales will decline 24 percent this year, while accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers expects a decrease ranging from 25 percent to 35 percent.
VW, GM, Ford and PSA badly hit
Most major automakers suffered big sales drops last month.
Sales at AvtoVAZ-Renault-Nissan, Russia's biggest auto group, fell 31 percent in March, while volume at Volkswagen Group, the country's second-largest auto group, was down 48 percent. The declines were less severe at the market's No. 3 player, Hyundai, whose sales fell 15 percent, but fourth-ranked Toyota Group sold 27 percent fewer cars than the year before. Rounding out the top five, Kia's volume sank 32 percent last month.
Both GM and Ford were badly hit as sales plummeted 76 percent and 73 percent respectively. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's volume fell 79 percent.
- Download PDF, above right, for March and 3-month Russia sales by automaker and brand.
To fight the decline in the industry, Russia's government has started to subsidize car loans, extended a scrappage program and allowed individuals to lease automobiles. The government measures will stem the contraction in car sales, which may drop 24 percent this year instead of 50 percent without support, Industry Minister Denis Manturov said in March.