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Renault/Nissan uses Russia as first step to shared sites

The Genser dealership in one of Moscow's sprawling suburbs could be the shape to come of Renault and Nissan dealers across Europe.

It has a joint service reception area separating the two showrooms. Workshops and all office facilities are shared and total staff is about 70.

This dealership sells about 200 new Renaults a year – 65% the Clio Symbol – and 700 new Nissans. Used cars are a sideline: about 10 a month.

Like most other 'official' dealers, Genser started life as a grey importer. Unofficial imports are the scourge of the industry in Russia and it is almost impossible to estimate how many there are each year.

Successful grey importers are being offered official dealerships. Most car retailers jump at the chance as the Russian authorities start to crack down on grey importers and try to make sure they pay import duty for all their cars.

Volkswagen is appointing two new Moscow dealers this year. Both were unofficial “so we decided to embrace them – they're glad to become official because of the benefits”, said a VW spokesman.

Last year's election of Vladimir Putin as president has provided the economic stability that the whole industry in Russia needed.

DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia president Gerhard Hilgert said: “There is a willingness among the politicians to have transparency and make sure the rules are applied. This is important.

“But this is still Russia, and the economy needs to improve. There is talk of cutting tax on profits from 35% to 24% and everyone thinks this will happen.”

Russia is a saloon market because most buyers believe you can smell petrol in a hatchback. It is a legacy of the time when motorists carried a can of petrol in the boot and the poor quality of Russian-built cars which let the fumes into the passenger compartment.

Major manufacturers are preparing for growth in the Russian car market though sales are still low: during the first seven months of this year, General Motors sold 661 cars. Heidi McCormack, general director, GM CIS (responsible for Opel, Saab and Chevrolet sales), said: “That more than twice exceeded our total sales for the whole of last year.

On average, sales were more than six times higher than last year and the development of the dealer network is the priority.

“Our plan is to open a new dealership every month and it is important for us to continue this growth.”

At the Moscow motor show, Opel announced the Astra coupe, complete with ABS and traction and stability control systems, would sell for around £16,500.

Hyundai and Toyota both have big plans for Russia. The South Korean carmaker said it planned to import 70,000 compact passenger cars over the next five years to be reassembled in Russia while Toyota has established its first sales unit, with a target of 20,000 sales a year.

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