Aug. 30 - Global auto makers flock to this year's Moscow car show keen to attract Russia's growing middle classes who are hungry for the latest foreign models. Hayley Platt reports
When it comes to luxury fast cars, Russia's super rich are often first in the queue. But carmakers at this year's Moscow auto show want to capture a new customer - Russia's growing middle classes. Companies like Renault and Nissan - well known for middle range cars - are now producing compact models for under $10,000. Paul Willcox is Nissan's head of sales and marketing. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF SALES AND MARKETING FOR EUROPE AT NISSAN, PAUL WILLCOX, SAYING: "The biggest opportunity is here because we know the market will grow dramatically, the market trend is significant and we believe, certainly not only from a market size perspective but also in terms of our ability to penetrate the market, that we can probably triple our volumes in the next four to five years." While much of western Europe's car market was flat, sales in Russia grew by 40 percent last year. More than 2.5 million vehicles were sold and analysts say that figure could rise to 3 million this year. 2011 was the first year foreign brands made in Russia topped one million and auto makers from far and wide are keen to cash in. Volkswagen is forecasting sales growth of 30 percent, General Motors is investing $1 billion dollars on its Russian output. And Mitsubishi boss Osamu Masuko says he has big plans too. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF MITSUBISHI MOTORS, OSAMU MASUKO, SAYING: "We already started the production here, so we produce near the market. So in the future we will supply our cars not only from Japan or from United States. In the future we have a chance to export from Russia." The car show officially opens to the public on Friday. And organisers are expecting more 1 million visitors. The country's booming auto industry reflects President Putin's drive to diversify. He wants to fuel new economic opportunities away from oil and gas. Hayley Platt, Reuters.