Uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus epidemic and low oil prices in the wake of an OPEC+ deal over oil output falling apart last month have made the ruble one of the world's worst-performing currencies against the dollar this year, losing around 20 percent of its value.
The Association of European Businesses (AEB) on Monday postponed the release of its March car sales statistics indefinitely, citing the "prolongation of the non-working period" in Russia, ordered by President Vladimir Putin until April 30 to curb the spread of infections.
Autostat, which also monitors the market, said on Tuesday that sales of passenger cars in March rose to 160,640 units, and increased by 16 percent to 375,649 in the first quarter year-on-year.
The explosive growth is primarily due to expectations of a rise in prices because of the ruble's fall, and a desire to buy a car at the old price, Autostat's Executive Director Sergei Udalov told Reuters.
"There will be a downturn, and it will be severe," Udalov said, adding that the decline in sales in April could reach as much as 80 percent to 90 percent.
Russia has reported 7,497 cases of coronavirus and 58 deaths, while a self-isolation regime imposed in Moscow is gradually being rolled out across other regions.
Car sales began to slow in the last week of March, when the self-isolation regime was introduced, Udalov said and predicted a slow market recovery when the non-working period is over as prices will have risen.
In March, Russian inflation accelerated to 2.5 percent year-on-year.
The only chance of a recovery will be with domestic producers, who can keep prices lower thanks to having assembly parts produced locally, he said.