Russia's car market is emerging fast from the crisis as cheap loans return and consumer confidence grows, leading auto makers said on Wednesday as they delivered upbeat forecast for sales growth this year.
Russia was well on its way to overtaking Germany as Europe's leading car market before sales collapsed in 2009 amid economic crisis that squelched cheap car loans and sent unemployment soaring.
Russian car sales for the first seven months of this year are up 9 percent on 2009 to 963,688, although this is still 45 percent below 2008 levels.
The government expects a 15-percent rise for the year as a whole to around 1.7 million units but General Motors' [GM.UL] European unit Opel said on Wednesday Russians could buy up 1.9 million cars in 2010 while Nissan said it could go as high as 2 million.
It was a pretty bold collapse last year but we are confident the Russian market can again top 3 million. Not next year but in the medium term, Opel's vice-president for sales and marketing, Alain Visser, told Reuters at Russia's annual International Motor Show.
The head of Nissan Russia unit, Francois Goupil de Bouille, said the firm had initially expected to sell 75,000 units in Russia this year but now sees sales doubling from last year to 100,000 units.
The total Russian market has recovered quicker than expected due to higher GDP growth, easier access to consumer credit and the government's scrappage scheme, he said.
The revival of the Russian car market this year has been partly based on a state-sponsored scrappage scheme that has awarded 50,000 roubles to drivers ($1,250) trading in locally made cars aged ten years or older.
In a sign that Russian car sales are picking up faster than expected and people are prepared to spend more on vehicles, the Russian car show is dominated by premium manufacturers gunning for big-spending Russians. [ID:nLDE67M1PW]
Among eight world car premieres are a Jaguar XJ and Land Rover Freelander, both owned by Tata Motors, and a new Porsche 911. Organisers are expecting around 1.5 million visitors to attend the event, close to the 1.6 million who visited in the boom year of 2008.
Separately, Nissan's Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga told Reuters Insider television he expected a yen rally to have a negative impact on its full year results.
Yen appreciation will have a big impact on us. We have to take countermeasures to minimise the impact, he said.
The yen scaled 15-month highs against the dollar JPY= and a nine-year peak versus the euro EURJPY= this week. (Reporting by John Bowker; writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by Simon Jessop)