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    GLOBAL CARMAKERS STEP UP RUSSIAN PRODUCTION

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - The number of foreign cars manufactured on Russian facilities increased by a factor of 3.46 in the first quarter of 2004, as compared with the same period last year. This is according to statistics cited by Alexander Kovrigin, Deputy Director-General of the ASM holding company, set up in 1992 on the basis of Russia's Automotive Ministry.

    According to Kovrigin, joint ventures between Russian and foreign auto makers are showing the highest rates of growth. The transnational Motor Ford, for one, increased the number of cars manufactured on its Russian plants 2.18-fold in this year's first quarter while the JV General Motors-Avtovaz boosted the output of the Chevrolet-Niva make by a factor of 7.5, he said.

    Some 21,425 foreign automobiles were manufactured in Russia in the first quarter of 2004-8.4 percent of the nation's overall car output, Kovrigin said. According to him, this figure was 1.1 percent in 2002 and 5.3 percent in 2003.

    While pointing out the current growth of foreign car manufacture in Russia, Kovrigin said that the situation may change in case the country joins the World Trade Organization and brings its import duties down to 20 percent. If this happens, investing in local auto production will become less profitable for global carmakers than shipping their products in. Thirty-five percent is the threshold for foreign investment, he explained.

    In the first quarter of 2004, Russian plants turned out a total 255,000 cars, 27.5 percent more than in the same period of 2003. The industry is picking up after last year's slump, caused by the glut of imported automobiles on the Russian market.

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