MOSCOW -- New car sales in Russia rose 11 percent in June, down from an 18 percent leap in May, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) lobby group said on Thursday, with analysts blaming the country's hosting of the soccer World Cup for the dip in demand.
The tournament runs from June 14 to July 15 and is taking place in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
"Demand during the championship is somewhat lower: [the] attention of many potential car buyers is diverted towards football," said Sergey Udalov, executive director at consultancy Autostat.
The AEB said 156,351 new cars and light commercial vehicles were sold in Russia in June, compared with 141,090.
"Still, nearly 11 percent year-on-year improvement is a very respectable result," Joerg Schreiber, chairman of the AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee, said in a statement.
"All in all, the first half of 2018 has been successful for the Russian car market, and there is good reason to believe that the positive momentum will continue in the coming months," he added.
Automakers, dealers and analysts expect Russia's plan to raise value-added tax will result in higher prices and hit demand and sales, although there could be a temporary increase in sales ahead of the tax hike in 2019.
Most top-selling brands recorded rises last month, with Mitsubishi seeing the biggest gain as sales jumped 92 percent. Skoda was the next big winner in June, with a leap of 26 percent.
Sales at VW brand jumped 21 percent, Kia gained 19 percent and Lada registrations increased 15 percent. Hyundai registrations rose 12 percent, while Renault was up 11 percent and Nissan gained 7 percent.
• Download PDF, above right, for June and 6-month sales by brand, automaker and group.
Toyota sales rose 1 percent, while Ford was down 6 percent.
First-half sales increased 18 percent to 849,221 cars, the AEB said.
Reuters contributed to this report