By on November 5, 2013

1 Toyota ProboxThe Toyota Probox is the most popular used Japanese import in Omsk.

Over the next few weeks I will be taking you on a trip through Trans-Siberian railway, stopping along the way in various Russia, Mongolian and Chinese cities to observe the vastly different car landscapes each time. The last stop was Yekaterinburg, and we are now travelling almost 1000 km South East to Omsk, the start of Siberia and the place where Dostoyevsky was imprisoned… I have alluded to the strange phenomenon of used right-hand drive Japanese imports in Russia in my last photo report as I started seeing a stream of these in Yekaterinburg… Well it gets better in Omsk… Jump in for the full report!

If you can’t wait for the next report, you can follow my trip in real time here. Check out 174 other car markets on my blog.

1b Toyota ProboxToyota Probox

In Omsk this stream has become a full-on river, and I estimate around 30% of the cars in circulation in the city are used Japanese imports, which means almost one-third of the cars are being driven with the steering wheel on the wrong side! Talk about dangerous driving conditions… The Toyota Probox seems to be the most popular in Omsk, with the Toyota Spacio, Estima, Corona, Corolla Fielder and Runx also very successful, complete with their distinct nameplate badge on the grille: in Japan most Toyotas don’t feature the Toyota logo but a nameplate-specific badge.

3 Renault Logan Toyota Corolla Platz Jp importToyota Platz, Toyota Corolla with nameplate badge and Renault Logan

But the list doesn’t stop there! It’s simple, choose any model on sale in Japan in the last 20 years (including recent ones) and chances are it is in Russia, at least in Omsk. It was a good test of my Japanese model naming skills, and a few I spotted during the 10 hours I stopped there include the Toyota Nadia, Opa, Ist, Will VS, Raum, Ipsum, Carina, Granvia, Platz, Ractis, Passo and Sienta, Nissan Liberty, Honda Stepwagon and Freed, Mitsubishi Dingo and Mazda Verisa.

12 Toyota VerossaToyota Verossa

12b Toyota VerossaYep that’s the one…

One model took me 48 hours and many hairs pulled to identify: the Toyota Verossa, on sale between 2001 and 2004 in Japan… We will see the Verossa again way further in my trip… A fascinating market composition that shows the lengths the Russian consumer is prepared to go for a value-for-money car.

8 GAZ Volga 1968 and 2004GAZ Volga

Roughly half of the cars in circulation in Omsk are older Russian models. As far as Ladas are concerned, the legendary Zhiguli/Classic is still commander-in-chief here, with the 2107 “high spec” model the most frequent. Then we have the 110, Samara and Kalina in this order. There are a lot of Volgas of all generations, particularly the last one, discontinued in 2008 but by the spotless look of some you would swear it is still on sale as new here.

10 UAZ BukhankaUAZ Bukhanka

6 GAZ GazelleGAZ Gazelle x 3

I’m starting to see more and more UAZ Patriots as we go further East and less foreign SUVs which is interesting, the UAZ Bukhanka has now become the default ‘non-transport’ van (police, ambulance, post office, banks…) while dozens of yellow GAZ Gazelle swarm the streets of Omsk as marshrutky (minivans)…

2 Hyundai SolarisHyundai Solaris

This leaves us with around 10 to 15% of relatively new cars in circulation, by far the lowest ratio I’ve seen so far and I’m anticipating it to stay at this level or even lower as I go further East and used Japanese imports become more and more prevalent… Given the small sample and the short amount of time I stayed in Omsk it is tough to give a truly reliable estimate of the best-selling new models but I will venture one nevertheless, and you will see once again it is pretty unique.

4 Lada GrantaLada Granta taxi

I would place the Lada Granta in pole position, but just. During the first few hours I barely saw any and wouldn’t even have placed it in the Top 5 but a sudden Granta-craze at rush hour changed my mind. The Hyundai Solaris is very popular in Omsk as well and I have to say so far this has been the most consistent model across the 5 cities I have visited. Similarly to Kazakhstan which is only 120km away (closer than any other big Russian city), I saw many shining new Lada Priora which could indicate it is still on the podium here contrary to the rest of the country. In fact, if you have a look at the best-selling cars in Kazakhstan last month you start to see a few similarities with the Omsk market…

5 Toyota RAV4Toyota RAV4

The big novelty is the Toyota Prado, absolutely everywhere in Omsk and way more popular than in any of the cities I visited so far. In fact, on top of grabbing a massive share of the used Japanese imports, Toyota is doing extremely well on the Omsk new car market: I would bet on the Corolla, Camry and Land Cruiser to all be in or close to the Top 10 here. Other successful new models include the Ford Focus, Renault Logan, Lada Largus, Kia Rio and Hyundai Elantra.

11 Toyota CorollaToyota Corolla

There are less SUVs in Omsk: the Kia Sportage, new generation Toyota RAV4, Hyundai ix35 and new generation Santa Fe stay afloat but the Renault Duster, Nissan Juke and Opel Mokka for example are much rarer than I got used to. Luxury models retain a presence but are much less frequent and limited to the true badass ones… Once again Infiniti is a winner with the traditional resident FX SUV, and I also saw a few Lexus RX, LX, LS, Mercedes ML-Class, GL-Class, E-Class and BMW 7 Series and X5.

7 Geely Emgrand EC7Geely Emgrand EC7 and the famous Omsk ‘slacker’ statue

We are not yet faced with a flood of Chinese models but I got the distinct impression of starting to see more and more of them in Omsk compared to Kazan or Yekaterinburg for example. I would even go as far as saying the Lifan Solano could have managed a Top 10 ranking here say for one month over the past couple of years. The telling sign is that for once there were much less Solano taxis than passenger cars which is a good indication of the model’s “adoption” by real consumers. I also spotted my first Geely Emgrand EC7 hatchback, along with the traditional Chery Very and Bonus,Geely MK and Great Wall Hover.

7b Lada LargusLada Largus taxi

I will end this Omsk report by a last weird trait: I saw one Toyota Tundra, Dodge Ram and Ford Mustang in the space of a few hours, all models I had not spotted once in the entire week I have been in Russia! To this point I cannot explain why Omsk consumers would be more fond of American specialties than the rest of Russia, so if you know something I don’t, please comment on this post!

9 GAZ Gazelle Hyundai SolarisGAZ Gazelle and Hyundai Solaris: common sights in Omsk, Siberia.

That’s it for Omsk, next stop in Tomsk (yep it’s a different city!), 940km to the North-East and now well and truly inside Siberia…

Omsk September 2013 – rough estimate:

Pos Model
1 Lada Granta
2 Hyundai Solaris
3 Lada Priora
4 Toyota Prado
5 Toyota Corolla
6 Ford Focus
7 Renault Logan
8 Lada Largus
9 Toyota Camry
10 Toyota Land Cruiser

13 Toyota NadiaToyota Nadia

14 Mitsubishi EndeavourMitsubishi Endeavour

15 Mitsubishi Mirage DingoMitsubishi Mirage Dingo, Lada 2107 and UAZ Patriot

16 Lada 2107 Nissan LibertyLada 2107 and Nissan Liberty

18 Toyota PradoToyota Prado

19 VW Touareg GAZ Gazelle UAZ BikhankaVW Touareg, GAZ Gazelle and UAZ Bukhanka

20 Toyota CorollaNew generation Toyota Corolla exhibited in Omsk, Siberia (next to a Hummer!) 

21 Hyundai Solaris Lada Samara ZhiguliLada Samara, Hyundai Solaris, Lada 2107

22 GAZ GazelleGAZ Gazelle

23 GAZ Gazelle Lada 2105GAZ Gazelle and Lada 2105

24 Moskvitch1976 Moskvitch 2140

25 GAZ Gazelle Cigarette advertisingGAZ Gazelle with cigarette advertising – a thing of the past in most countries these days…

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14 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 5: Omsk, Siberia...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Awesome, an AZLK Moskvitch sighting no less! As you travel eastward, that 30% RHD will easily become well over 50%, by the time you reach the Russian Far East it is 85%+. It’s rather simple, people prefer reliable and affordable Japanese makes to Russian makes by a mile.

    Try to see if you can get a shot of an Izh Moskvitch 412 or a Zaporozhets! Bonus points for a Moskvitch 407 or 408 :)

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I wonder if Import Japanese cars has died down considerably with the insane recycling tax? I did the research you pay 20% duty, 20% vat, and then a price per cc of the engine. If i remember correctly even the lowest amount is like $2 per cc. You pretty much lose all cost advantage at that point.

      So say $5000 usd Japanese car.

      $1000 duty
      $1000 vat
      let say 1.6liter engine
      $3200
      Total: $10200 add some more for whatever bs fees to have to pay. Maybe some bribes.

      For that price you can get a new car in Russia but, it might still be viable but not by much.

      But, Russia forgot that they are in the WTO and they will have to scrap the rule one way or another. Protection at its best that just ends up having the consumer pay more.

      Right now they have a rule that if automakers produce 30% of the content of a automobile domestically they can import parts duty free.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I think the JDM imports have been cracked down on in recent years, not sure but there used to be a loophole to partially disassemble a car after being bought at auction, bring it over as ‘spare parts,’ then reassembling it at port and driving away. I remember my cousin buying a spotlessly clean, low mileage 1998 Carina in 2004 for something like $6000, it was unreal. That was a much better car than a new Samara or a 2110 for similar money. JDM Toyotas are so widespread in Siberia that parts and know-how in servicing them is no more complicated than a Lada. I have two Siberian relatives that switched over from RWD ladas into mid 90s Toyota Caldina wagons, neither are ever going back to Russian cars I don’t think. Another relative in Moscow switched from a Lada 2111 wagon to a 1996 Honda Shuttle (1st gen Odyssey with LHD from Germany) and hasn’t looked back.

        The holdouts were my grandfather and his sky-blue 1987 Kombi that he finally gave up the keys to in 2007, and my great aunt’s husband who had a fantastically orange Izh 412 Moskvitch and now drives a more commonplace Lada 2106. Well my father still has our 1972 Zaporozhets 966 in our garage as well.

        • 0 avatar
          ErSchmecktGut2

          What are you even talking about.
          Used Japanese cars are very much a thing of the past for most of the country.

          Like 90% of POS cars sold in Russia are all made in Russia, even if sometimes foreign owned, like Russian Ford.

          Also, Toyota has developed something of a bad name in Russia of late, i think.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about, I’ve got family and friends in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Biysk, and Khabarovsk. What does “most of the country” mean to you? I’ve found that most Russians have massive respect for Japanese cars, and for people in Siberia and the Russian Far East, a used RHD import is an affordable way to move up from a Lada. Yes The Renault Duster and Logan are popular and successful, as are a number of locally assembled knock-down-kit cars and transplant factory-built autos (Focus like you said). But for people East of the Urals, a RHD Japanese car is the best bang for the buck. Fewer may be coming in, but there are millions that were brought in while it was cheap, and they’ll be driving quite a while yet.

            I have fond memories of riding in a well worn early 90s Toyota Crown Royal Saloon G Supercharger, a Japanese take on the Brougham theme, powered by a small displacement supercharged engine. Flying down the road to Tolmachevo airport at 4am while the cab driver sucked down one cigarette after another while listening to house music, the green “supercharger” light lighting up when he put his foot in it.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        “Banning” left hand cars isn’t that difficult and WTO approved

  • avatar
    Hank

    Great post. This brings back a lot of memories for me. I’ve never been to Omsk, but worked in Perm (also on the Trans-Siberian rail line) a little while, and the two cities look a lot alike from what you’ve shared.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I once found the Probox on Wikipedia, and marketed well, it could have been the heir to the Volvo 240 in the west, I guess. It just never happened. It also disappeared from your Pos-list!?

    Same tram as in Berlin (Germany) in the lead image. I also wonder why you call the UAZ vans Bukhanka, that’s no name in use on their website anymore!? Not pointing, just interested.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Oh, that Probox looks sweet! Went to the Japanese site and ogled it. It’s like a baby Grand Caravan with the footprint and appearance of an ’80s GC. Fold-flat rear seats, too. Want!

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Damn, the old Ladas sure are tough. Then again, some of those might be 2005 models for all I know.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yeah more likely than not, they made the 2107 right up until 2011 or 2012.

      A lot of stuff breaks on them, but it they are simple and dirt cheap to fix. The people that buy the rwd Ladas generally can’t just say “oh I can’t deal with this unreliable piece of crap, I’m buying a new car.” It’s their only option in terms of an automobile, so they keep it going. Things like balljoints might need replacing as often as 30000km, depending on how terrible the roads are. Lada owners don’t even bat an eye something like that, it’s just part of life. Thankfully new balljoints can be bought for something laughable like $10, and swapped in in a jiffy. They rust out really easily as well, so mindful owners go to great lengths to undercoat their cars. My dad told me back in the Soviet days of communal garage-complex life, guys would all pitch in a bucket of undercoating oil, and they’d pour that into a huge vat that cars could literally be dipped into. No idea how they dealt with that crap on their brakes and exhaust afterwards, perhaps they wrapped them in plastic beforehand.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I knew I would see at least one in this series, both the H2, and H3 had an assembler in Russia, same assembler does several other American makes.


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