Russian car sales unpredictably jump in March, here's why
Russian car sales unexpectedly jumped in March as consumers poured their savings into big-ticket items before prices adjusted to a slump in the ruble.
Car sales rose 4% in March compared with a year earlier, the biggest monthly increase since December 2018, according to the Association of European Businesses in Moscow. First-quarter sales were up 1.8%. A nationwide lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus began right at the end of the month.
“This strong start of the year unfortunately does not represent a growth trend," said Thomas Staertzel, chairman of the AEB’s Automobile Manufacturer’s Committee. “Since the end of March, car sales and dealer operations have been sharply interrupted."
President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russians to stay off work until May 1 to slow the spread of coronavirus, a move the central bank says could knock 1.5% to 2% from economic growth this year. The ruble weakened almost 15% against the dollar in March.
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Russian car sales haven’t recovered to their 2012 high due to economic stagnation since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia had fewer car sales in 2019 than Italy -- despite having more than twice the population -- and Ford Motor Co. closed three plants.