How's Russia's booming car market doing? JD Power Automotive Forecasting analyst Carol Thomas tells just-auto that a slowdown in August provides some cause for concern.

The extent to which the BRIC economies are 'decoupled' from the wheezing economies of the West is becoming an issue of increasing debate among economists.

It is also something with potentially far-reaching implications for car companies who are offsetting anaemic demand in North America and Western Europe with growing sales in the big emerging markets.

Analysts' eyes are now turning to Russia, whose automotive market has soared in recent years on the back of an energy sector led economic boom and higher disposable incomes.

However, there are now indications that the fast-growing car market is slowing.

Analysts point to the recent military conflict in Georgia and a recent sharp reversal in the Russian stockmarket as factors that may be causing the car market to cool as consumers become more nervous about spending on big ticket items.

Carol Thomas, central and eastern Europe sales analyst with JD Power Automotive Forecasting says that while any slowdown presents cause for concern, the market fundamentals in Russia nevertheless remain strong.

"The sales figures for August were a little bit disappointing, though hardly disastrous. Our estimates suggest the car market came in at around 232,000 units - still 6% up on last year, but that figure contrasts a little with cumulative sales this year of some 1.89m cars, up 29% on the same period last year," she told just-auto.

Thomas says the domestic manufacturers in Russia are bearing the brunt of the market slowdown so far.

"AvtoVAZ has really struggled over the last few months," she said.

Western brands in Russia, especially those assembled locally (such as the Ford Focus) continue to be in high demand with filled out order books. A general slowdown is yet to be established and it may not come to that if

As far as the future market trend goes, Thomas maintains that there is more uncertainty than usual.

"The fundamentals are still pretty good. Wages and real incomes are still growing, but much depends on the resilience of consumer confidence and in particular what happens in Russia's financial markets and the wider economy. There's also the oil price to consider, which has worked against Russia's economy recently.

"We could be entering a period in which the Russian car market experiences slower growth, but the duration of such a slowdown could be very short.

"At this point, we still have a double-digit percentage increase forecast for Russia's car market in 2009, but we'll keep that under very close review as we monitor developments in Russia over the next few months."

For Western automakers with an expanding presence in Russia, the mere suggestion of a cooling off in its 'we-just-can't build-enough' gravity-defying car market may be setting off a few alarm bells.

The Brazilian, Indian and Chinese car markets have all recently slowed, too. In today's global economy, it would seem that the BRICs aren't wholly immune from the economic problems impacting Western economies.   

Dave Leggett