Sales of foreign cars in Russia are up 20% to 60% this year because the locals have more cash in their pockets and new financing options are available, the Moscow Times said on its website.

Renault sales of 6,042 cars in the first nine months of the year were up 50% on the same period in 2001 while Audi posted a 40% rise to 2,250 vehicles, the report said.

Kia and BMW assembler, Kaliningrad-based Avtotor, told the Moscow Times its sales were up 51% to 3,876 in the first three quarters, while Ford sold 4,027 vehicles, up 52% on the year.

Honda sold 891 cars to the end of September, up 60%, while Skoda expects a 20% increase in sales to 10,000 units for the year, the newspaper added.

Troika Dialog analyst Andrei Kormilitsin told the Moscow Times that mid-priced foreign cars, which cost between $US12,000 and $15,000, have seen the highest growth because rising incomes are making them more affordable.

"Last year 2% to 3% of import purchases were financed through credit; this year it is more like over 10%," he told the newspaper. "This has added around 40% to consumers' buying power."

The Moscow Times said Russian car makers' share of the market has dropped from 71% in 2001 to 64% this year, according to state statistics, as more Russians become less concerned with price and more concerned with quality to the detriment of domestic producers.

Ford last week told the Moscow Times that it had already received 2,600 orders for the Russian-made Focus assembled at its plant near St. Petersburg. The company had only expected 600 orders by now and was expecting its plant to reach its 25,000-unit annual capacity sooner than planned, the report said.