MOSCOW, Russia: As Western sanctions are sending annual car sales in Russia crashing to below 1 million for the first time since records began being kept, President Vladimir Putin has urged the Russian government to control car prices.
Maxim Sokolov, head of Russia's top carmaker, Avtovaz, said so far this year, car sales have fallen over 60 percent and may end up being less than one-quarter of the figure from a decade ago.
This year's drop is mainly due to a collapse in demand following the mobilization for the invasion of Ukraine, as well as the pullout from Russia of foreign carmakers, such as Renault and Mercedes-Benz.
Putin told top officials that the situation was "not easy," and asked the government to help make cars more affordable.
"I would like to draw your attention to the need for constant control over pricing, so that under these difficulties, of which we are all aware, including logistics, no one abuses or unreasonably raises the prices of road vehicles," he said.
Meanwhile, Trade Minister Denis Manturov told Putin that assembly lines were being ramped up at Russia's domestic carmakers - including Avtovaz, maker of the Lada and once a Renault subsidiary, along with GAZ, Kamaz and UAZ.
Also, the Muscovite, a Soviet-era brand that fell into obscurity after the fall of the Soviet Union, is to resume production by the end of the month, in a plant taken over from Renault, he said.
However, Sokolov noted that the number of cars sold in Russia this year will fall below 1 million for the first time.
"Indeed, Avtovaz, as well as the entire automotive industry of the Russian Federation, has probably found itself in the most difficult situation this year. We have never before faced such a large-scale and comprehensive challenge," Sokolov said.