Disastrous start to the year for Central, Eastern European car markets

The car markets in Russia, central and Eastern Europe are still in significant decline, according to data released this week by automotive analyst JATO Dynamics.

Car sales in the first quarter of 2010 dropped 12.4 percent in central and Eastern European markets, the company said April 30, from an already depressed level in 2009.

Less than 200,000 vehicles were sold across the entire territory for the first three months of the year, knocking perceptions of the market as a growth center for car sales. Hungary and Romania suffered the worst losses overall, will falls of 54.8 percent and 43.8 percent respectively.

Only Skoda managed positive news, remaining by far and away the most popular brand in the region with a 16.3 percent increase in sales - although this did little to mitigate the dismal performance across the rest of the market.

Russia's car market suffered worse, however, falling by over a quarter in the first three months of 2010.

Imported brands were the worst affected, said JATO, in part because of the structure of the Russian "cash for clunkers" programs. A new scheme worth 50,000 RUR (€1,125) per vehicle was introduced in March to attempt to arrest the decline.

"Russia's new car market continues to suffer, with a lack of affordable credit effectively blocking purchase of all but locally-built cars, which carry their own tax breaks," said JATO's Evangelos Hadjistavrou. "It remains to be seen whether the new government scrappage incentive will change its fortunes."

Nissan (down 54.7 percent), Ford (down 49.5 percent ) and Toyota (down 37.6 percent) have all been severely affected in the Russian market.

The top ten models in Central and Eastern Europe - Q1 2010

1. Skoda Octavia
2. Skoda Fabia
3. Dacia Logan
4. Volkswagen Golf
5. Opel Astra
6. Ford Focus
7. Renault Megane
8. Toyota Yaris
9. Volkswagen Polo
10. Kia Ceed

The top ten models in Russia - Q1 2010

1. Lada Priora
2. Lada Samara
3. Renault Logan
4. Lada 2104/2105/2107
5. Lada Kalina
6. Ford Focus
7. Lada 4X4
8. Chevrolet Niva
9. Daewoo Nexia
10. Chevrolet Lacetti

Data from JATO Dynamics - http://www.jato.com

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