Mitsubishi distributor Rolf Group, Russia's largest vehicle importer, plans to sell 140,000 fully-imported vehicles in fiscal 2008, up 40% from the previous year, company president Matt Donnelly told a Japanese news agency on Thursday.

The leading retailer of foreign-made cars, which has an exclusive deal with Mitsubishi in Russia, plans to increase the number of its Mitsubishi dealerships by the end of the year and to increase sales by about 45% to 100,000 vehicles in fiscal 2007 which ends next March, Kyodo News reported.

The ''reliability'' of Japanese cars is widely accepted by the Russian public, Donnelly said at a press conference in Tokyo.

Rolf sells Mitsubishi models such as the Lancer sedan (called Galant Fortis in Japan) in Russia where the car market is expanding rapidly thanks to the country's economic growth.

While several western automakers are operating or building assembly plants in the St Petersburg area, which is fast becoming Russia's 'motor city', Mitsubishi has not yet announced plans to follow suit though it has admitted to considering a plant, possibly in partnership with PSA (with whom it shares Outlander crossover derivatives and some diesel engines), and does not expect to decide before the end of this year.

Rolf previously operated as a distributor for Netherlands-based Mitsubishi Motors Europe but Russia las April was established as a stand-alone market dealing directly with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan.

Kyodo News noted that Rolf also distributes Toyota, Lexus and Mazda models as well as Mitsubishi's vehicles.