AvtoVAZ gets spring joy from car scrappage scheme

* Says March sales rose 60 percent on previous month

* Sales up 6 percent year on year

MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) - Russian car maker AvtoVAZ AVAZ.MM boosted sales by 60 percent in March as the government's new scrappage scheme tempted drivers to trade in their old bangers.

The Lada producer sold more than 32,000 vehicles last month, its Vice President for sales and marketing Maxim Nagaitsev said, up from 20,147 in February and a 6 percent rise year on year.

He added that sales had been boosted mainly by the popularity of the scrappage scheme -- based on similar programmes that revived sales in Western markets including Germany -- and the seasonal benefits of warmer weather.

Russia’s car industry was brought to its knees in 2009 as the global economic crisis and a drying up of cheap credit saw overall sales cut in half.

The government brought in the scrappage scheme -- which offers up to 50,000 roubles ($1,698) to buyers trading in cars more than 10 years old -- on March 8.

The scheme was expected to chiefly benefit AvtoVAZ, 25 percent owned by France's Renault RENA.PA, due to its extensive local production and the cheap price tag on many Lada models.

Overall Russian car sales were down 34 percent in the first two months of the year, but the industry is anticipating a slow but steady recovery. [nL1605803]

AvtoVAZ was nearly bankrupted last year and has had to rely on billions of roubles of state aid and a painstaking restructuring plan to stay afloat. [nLDE6292G5]

($1=29.45 Rouble)

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Writing by John Bowker; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Hans Peters)

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