UPDATE 1-Russian auto sales down 2 pct in February -AEB

Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:53am EDT

(Adds background about Russia's economy, quotes)

MOSCOW, March 11 (Reuters) - Russian car sales fell 2 percent in February, a lobby group for the industry said, a smaller decline than the previous month, which reflected a pick up in demand as a sliding rouble encouraged consumers to put orders in.

Car sales have been falling in Russia because the economy is weakening and they are expected to remain weak this year.

Russia's economy grew by just 1.3 percent in 2013 and analysts have said action taken to defend the rouble could push the economy into recession.

Russia's rouble has dropped nearly 11 percent this year, a fall that has accelerated because of the escalation of tension in Ukraine. The falling rouble raises the price of imported goods for consumers.

The Association of European Businesses (AEB) said 206,476 cars and light commercial vehicles were sold in Russia during February, down 2 percent on the previous year. In January, sales were down 6 percent.

"Retail activity was better than normal for the season, boosted by consumer concerns about weakening rouble and resulting price increases on imported vehicles," Joerg Schreiber, Chairman of the AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee, said.

He said that the pull-ahead in customer orders should show positively in March sales, but left question marks about the robustness of consumer demand moving into the second quarter of the year. (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Maria Kiselyova and Jane Merriman)

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