ESIPOVO, Russia -- Daimler officially opened a Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Russia on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, marking a rare foreign investment into Russia's car industry.
The plant in the town of Esipovo 40 km north west of Moscow is the first in years to be opened by a foreign carmaker in Russia where investment into the once burgeoning auto industry dried up amid western sanctions and a stagnant economy.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Putin said the plant would produce 25,000 cars a year and that investment in the project had totalled 19 billion rubles ($291 million).
Putin said the factory, built after Daimler signed a deal with Russia's authorities in early 2017, would employ almost 1,000 people.
Most global automakers opened plants in Russia in the first half of the 2000s, but after peaking in 2012 car sales slumped to a ten-year low of 1.42 million in 2016. The market is picking up again, and a total of 1.8 million cars were sold last year.
Mercedes will build E-class sedans at the plant for the local market. SUV production will follow after the E class, Daimler said.
Sales of Mercedes cars in Russia rose 3 percent to 37,788 last year, according to the AEB automakers association.