Interfax reports that vehicle production in Russia totalled 584,966 automobiles in the first half of 2003, down 6.1% from 622,663 in the same period of 2002. Interfax said that vehicle production dropped because market conditions meant some plants did not work to full capacity at the beginning of the year.

The news agency added that various companies accumulated inventory because of heavy imports of used foreign cars over seven years old. However, analysts said production is picking up month-by-month and output for the year could slightly exceed last year's figures.

Russia produced 584,966 automobiles in the first half of 2003, down 6.1% from 622,663 in the same period of 2002. Passenger car output totalled 459,865, against 510,262 in the same period last year, and truck production (including chassis) was 90,471, compared with 81,344 units last year.

Russia produced 35,516 buses, up from 31,796 in the first half of 2002.

Interfax said that car production dropped because some plants did not work to full capacity at the beginning of the year due to the market situation. A number of companies had large inventories at the beginning of the year due to heavy imports of used foreign cars following the announcement, but slow implementation of an increase in duties on imported cars older than seven years.

ASM forecasts 2003 output of 980,000 cars, against 980,736 in 2002.

Avtovaz, Russia's biggest carmaker, sold 349,949 cars in the half, 6% fewer year-on-year (output was at 320,385 vehicles). Sales figures were down 42.5% to 21,065 at GAZ (21,201), up 17.5% to 37,551 at Izh-Avto (37,740), down 2.6% to 18,800 at the Kamaz subsidiary that makes the Oka compact (18,635), down 3% to 16,160 at UAZ (15,887), and down 2.2% to 9,300 at SeAZ (9,286). ZAO Ford Motor Company sold 6,743 vehicles in the half and produced 6,158, and the GM-Avtovaz joint venture sold 5,153 sport-utility vehicles and produced 5,044.

Avtovaz accounted for 71.46% of sales of Russian-made cars, GAZ had a market share of 4.3%, Kamaz had 3.84%, UAZ 3.3%, Izh-Avto 7.67% and SeAZ 1.9%.