MOSCOW -- New-car sales in Russia fell 5 percent to 77,916 last month despite predictions that registrations would begin to rebound this year.
"If the market is going to grow this year, then in January it is not showing any hurry to do so," Joerg Schreiber, chairman of the Association of European Businesses (AEB) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Schreiber said sales had picked up in the second half of January and he expected to see year-on-year growth in the coming months.
Last month, the group predicted that Russia was nearing the end of a four-year market decline and would likely pick up in 2017, with annual sales expected to rise 4 percent.
Other market watchers expect even stronger growth this year. "Given that the government will continue with a scrapping program similar to the one in place last year, and that the ruble and inflation remain stable, a 5 percent growth for 2017 is possible," Ford of Europe President Jim Farley told Automotive News Europe recently.
After a decade of sales growth in excess of 10 percent a year, Russia's car industry had been on the brink of passing Germany as the region's single-biggest market, but instead the country's economy was waylaid by an economic crisis driven by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
Mixed brand results
Sales at Lada rose 5 percent in January as the Russia's best-selling brand continued to benefit from robust demand for two new compact models, the Vesta sedan and X-ray crossover.
Volume at Kia, the country's No. 2 brand, rose by 14 percent, while third-placed Hyundai slipped 16 percent. Renault, at No. 4, saw registrations rise 4 percent, while sales at fifth-ranked Volkswagen grew 3 percent.
Among other major players, Toyota brand sales plunged 37 percent in January, while Ford's registrations were flat. Nissan's sales dropped 6 percent.
• Download PDF, above right, for Russia sales by automaker, brand and model for January.
Reuters contributed to this report