Ford has said that it has resumed production at its Russian plant after a steep drop in local demand forced it to half production for a month.

"The plant restarted production in three shifts as usual. During the winter holidays the plant managed to prepare for the launch of the Mondeo, which is expected in March," Ford Russia spokeswomen Yekaterina Kulinenko told Reuters.

Ford's Mondeo had been planned for launch in Russia late last year, but the market collapse that followed the banking crisis put that on hold.

In November, sales of all foreign cars fell 15% year-on-year followed by a 10% drop in December, the first declines recorded by the Association of European Businesses.

Ford saw an even steeper fall, with sales down 21% in November and 15% in December.

Some market analysts believe the Russian market could fall by as much as 50% in 2009, taking it back to its 2006 level of around 1.5m units.