Sales of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in Russia fell 49% in 2009 to 1.47m cars, according to data released by the Association of European Businesses (AEB).

All brands suffered in a market that was decimated by the impact of Russia's severe economic recession that followed the onset of the international financial crisis in late 2008.

Russia's largest car manufacturer AvtoVAZ sold 349,490 Lada cars in 2009, down 44% on the year.

Among foreign-branded vehicles, sales of Chevrolet decreased 56% on the year to 104,398 units in the period and Ford's sales fell 56% to 82,083 units.

The AEB noted that December's market showed a smaller decline than previous months.

"It is encouraging to see a slight improvement in December sales with a decline of only 38% compared to a full year drop of 49%. December has traditionally been a very strong month for car sales and I hope to see this positive development continue into 2010," said David Thomas, AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee's Chairman.

He also said that the AEB has been encouraged by the support from the government to the industry during the year and 'has been pleased to have been involved in giving input to several programmes'.

The organisation forecast that Russia's car market in 2010 the market will reach 1.4m units - or 1.5m units if LCVs are included.

It added that the 2010 forecast is 'quite optimistic' and is based on the expectation that the state support measures - subsidized loans and the scrappage incentive - will be effective enough.

A 'light revival' of the market will come, 'most likely, in the second half of the year,' the AEB said.

See also: RUSSIA: Scrappage scheme not seen boosting sales