PAUL MCVEIGH

Euro contagion means Russia car sales likely to pass Germany this year

Paul McVeigh is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.Paul McVeigh is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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GENEVA -- Russia is likely to become Europe's biggest market for new vehicles as early as this year as current leader Germany succumbs to the euro zone crisis, according to Toyota Europe's sales and marketing boss Karl Schlicht.

"We're looking at a total market of 3 million for Russia and 2.7 million for Germany," Schlicht says.

Researchers IHS Automotive recently forecast that the Russia would surpass Germany by 2017, but the swap in the top spot is set to come much sooner than that. German car sales are falling fast as the euro zone crisis that has devastated southern Europe spreads north.

Registrations in Germany fell 10 percent to about 200,000 vehicles in February, taking the total for the first two months of the year to 392,000. Russia's car sales for February are not out yet, but January sales were up 5 percent to 162,077.

Schlicht said Toyota expects modest sales growth for its brand in Russia this year in a total market likely to be flat after a couple of years of strong growth.

Sales of Toyota brand cars in Russia increased by 28 percent to 153,047 in 2012 in a total market up 11 percent to 2.94 million, according to the Moscow-based Association of European businesses, making Toyota the eighth best-selling brand. The midsized Camry sedan and Corolla compact car are the automaker's top sellers in Russia.

You can reach Paul McVeigh at pmcveigh@crain.com.

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