Russian car sales are seen rising by 6 per cent from last year to 2.8 million units in 2012, Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Alexei Rakhmanov said on Tuesday, indicating a sharp slowdown from a 23 per cent rise seen in the January-February period. Western carmakers are targeting Russia as one of the most important growth areas for the industry as slowing sales and overcapacity issues dog more mature markets. “We believe in 2012 we’ll see 6 per cent growth compared to 2011. You will call me a pessimist, but there is a saying...a pessimist is a well-informed optimist,” Rakhmanov told the annual Russian Automotive Forum. He said the end of a government sponsored scrappage scheme would contribute to the slower growth, as cheap local brands such as the Lada cease to benefit from the deal. The scheme, which offered drivers a 50,000 rouble ($1,700)cash incentive to trade in locally-made vehicles aged ten years or older, ended in 2011 after contributing 600,000 new sales to the overall market. The Association of European Business (AEB), which compiles independent Russian car sales, has forecast new sales in the range of 2.6 -3 million for 2012.