Russian auto sales plunged less than in other countries in 2020

Russian auto sales plunged less than in other countries in 2020
Photo: Alexander Poprygin

The COVID-19 pandemic hampered auto market as well as other spheres, but in Russia, the drop turned to be modest. State support and pent-up demand for cars helped the country to climb higher in a global ranking based on the number of sales.

The Russian auto market was nudged into the global top ten by the pandemic last year, says Reuters citing preliminary data of the Association of European Businesses (AEB). The country saw a relatively small drop in sales last year, while other markets were battered by the pandemic. The AEB’s presentation showed a decrease in sales in all major markets except South Korea. As a result, Russia moved from 12th to 10th place in the global car market ranking.

Nonetheless, annual sales in Russia totalled just under 1,6 million vehicles, which was down 9,1% compared to 2019. The local car market plunged by 50-70% during the country’s first and only lockdown in April-May before a stop-start recovery. The initial fall was cushioned by cheap car loans, state support and a post-lockdown rush to buy cars. Russians worried about the weakening ruble, as they expected the year’s 19% fall in the value of the national currency against the US dollar was to spur car prices.

Lada Granta and Lada Vesta remain Russia's most popular cars. Photo: Dmitry Racer

According to the AEB, 2020’s final result slightly surpassed its revised annual forecast from September despite a 2,1% year-on-year decrease in sales in December. This year, the association expects sales to add 2,1% year on year and reach 1,63 million units, which may become the market’s first growth in three years. The forecast is based on assumptions “that there will be no new lockdowns, [...] no new restrictive foreign trade measures will be introduced against Russia, such as new sanctions, and that existing state support measures will continue”, said Chairman of the AEB’s Automobile Manufacturers Committee Thomas Staertzel.

Meanwhile, Lada Granta and Lada Vesta remain Russia’s most popular cars. Overall, more than 340 thousand of Lada vehicles were sold in the country last year. The brand’s share of the passenger car and light commercial vehicle market increased from 20,6% to 21,5%. In a recent statement, Lada admitted that last year “was a real test of the whole automotive industry’s strength” and cited “state measures to stimulate the demand on the automotive market, successful implementation of advanced public procurement programmes and the company’s rapid response to the new operating reality” as factors that helped to enhance its position.

By Anna Litvina