Ukraine’s new car sales halved in 2015 to levels not seen since the late 1990s, a report prepared by Kiev’s Auto Consulting group shows.


The market analytics firm attributed the drop in a report released this week to a sharp depreciation of the hryvnia currency that dampened consumer spending and pulled more people below the poverty line.


Auto Consulting said 46,400 new light vehicles were sold last year and predicted only a small rebound in 2016.


It added that BMW was the sole manufacturer to record gains among the major auto producers last year.


Japan’s Toyota led the car sales market despite recording a loss of 50.4 percent compared to 2014.


“New car sales fell by nearly 50 percent in 2015. Or to be more precise, by 49.7 percent,” Auto Consulting director Oleg Melnitskiy told AFP by telephone on Friday.


“The figures were only lower in 1997 and 1998,” he said.


Melnitskiy added that a more stable currency and transparent legislation could help 2016 sales rise “by up to 10 percent”.


The International Monetary Fund estimates that the ex-Soviet country’s economy contracted by 11 percent in 2015 due to spending on Kiev’s campaign against pro-Russian eastern insurgents and the loss of key industries to rebel control.


Uncertainty about when the 20-month conflict might finish has brought foreign direct investment down to a trickle and ground Ukrainian business activity to a halt.


The hryvnia lost 62 percent of its value against the dollar last year — on a par with the level recorded in neighbouring Russia.


Global Post