MOSCOW: Russia could become Europe's leading car market within two years, displacing Germany from the top spot and offering increased opportunities for global automakers, according to a new government forecast.

Speaking at the Sochi Investment Forum in Russia, Evgeniy Kudryashov, who heads the car industry department at the Russian Ministry of Trade and Industry, said that the Russian car market is set to grow by 12.4% in 2012, Russia Today reports.

Kudryashov suggested that "growth figures in 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 make a target of becoming the No.1 market in Europe possible.”

He also indicated that the Russian government is developing a car recycling program that will help car makers utilize components and reduce costs.

Another factor in vehicle production was highlighted by the general director of Volkswagen Russia.

Also speaking to the news source, Marcus Osegowitsh warned that Russian membership of the World Trade Organisation would lead to lower customs tariffs and so reduce the incentive for suppliers to localise car production as they would instead just import parts.

Volkswagen expects to reach a 60% "localization" total by 2016, meaning that most of its cars sold in Russia will be made in Russia.

The comments chime with recent figures from PwC, which suggested that car sales in Russia almost reached $60bn in 2011, up 70% from the year before. In volume terms, the sector registered annual growth of around 40%.

Data sourced from Russia Today/Reuters; additional content by Warc staff