Russian consumers navigated through the doom and gloom of economic sanctions and rising political tensions to drive an extra 204,854 new vehicles out of showrooms last year.
The Automobile Manufacturers Committee of the Association of European Businesses data shows 12 consecutive months of growth pushed full-year sales up 12.8% to 1,800,591 units.
It was the second year of gains for the Russian market after 2017 saw sales rise 11.9% to 1,595,737.
But committee chairman Joerg Schreiber says the outlook for 2019 is not so straightforward.
“Consumer tax increases and a possible tightening of U.S. sanctions create significant risks and uncertainties for the market performance, especially in the first quarter of the year,” Schreiber says in a statement.
“Assuming no drastic change in government policy and support for the automotive sector, market participants, however, expect that fundamental market demand should be robust enough for sales to consolidate and to return to a growth pattern in the course of the year.”
The committee is predicting 2019 sales of cars and light-commercial vehicles will edge up a moderate 3.6% to 1.87 million units.
Homegrown brand Lada continued to dominate the market in 2018, rising 16% to 360,204 units, well ahead of Kia, up 25% to 227,584; and Hyundai, up 13% to 178,269.
Toyota, up 15% to 108,492 units, and Volkswagen, up 19% to 106,056, rounded out the top five.
The big gainer was Mitsubishi, soaring 86.6% to 45,391 units. Its Outlander accounted for 24,511 units, up 45.6%.
The U.S. contingent, perhaps hampered by a domestic backlash over claims of Russian interference in American elections, sanctions and other political crises, turned in a mixed result.
Ford finished 10th among automakers with deliveries rising 6% to 53,234 units, while Chevrolet was 14th after dropping 6% to 30,021.
Cadillac dropped 14% to 1,176 units, while rival Jaguar jumped 17% to 2,537.
Lada claimed the top two spots in model sales with the Vesta compact sedan rising 40.2% to 108,364 units and its Granta subcompact climbing 13.5% to 106,325. Kia’s Rio hatchback followed, edging up 3.4% to 100,148 units.
Chevrolet’s Niva mini-SUV was the only American model to crack the top 25, finishing 19th – down from 13th a year earlier – and off 6.3% at 29,236 units.