Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 5: Omsk, Siberia

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
The 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.

Toyota 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.

Toyota 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.

Toyota Verossa
Yep 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.

GAZ 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.

UAZ Bukhanka
GAZ 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)…

Hyundai 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.

Lada 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…

Toyota 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.

Toyota 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.

Geely 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.

Lada 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!

GAZ 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:

PosModel1Lada Granta2Hyundai Solaris3Lada Priora4Toyota Prado5Toyota Corolla6Ford Focus7Renault Logan8Lada Largus9Toyota Camry10Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Nadia
Mitsubishi Endeavour
Mitsubishi Mirage Dingo, Lada 2107 and UAZ Patriot
Lada 2107 and Nissan Liberty
Toyota Prado
VW Touareg, GAZ Gazelle and UAZ Bukhanka
New generation Toyota Corolla exhibited in Omsk, Siberia (next to a Hummer!)
Lada Samara, Hyundai Solaris, Lada 2107
GAZ Gazelle
GAZ Gazelle and Lada 2105
1976 Moskvitch 2140
GAZ Gazelle with cigarette advertising – a thing of the past in most countries these days…
Matt Gasnier
Matt Gasnier

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3 of 14 comments
  • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Nov 05, 2013

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

    • Gtem Gtem on Nov 05, 2013

      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.

  • Hummer Hummer on Nov 17, 2013

    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.

  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.
  • Kat Laneaux I get the point that Musk is making. I wouldn't want everyone to know my secrets. If they did, they could or would shout it out to the world. But then, if Musk certified certain folks and had them sign Confidentiality agreements, which would allow them to work on cars that Musk had made, that could allow others to work on his cars and not confine vehicle owners to be charged an arm and a leg for the service. It's a catch 22. People are greedy little buggers. If they can find a way to make money, they will even if it wrong. People...sad.
  • 285exp I have been assured that EVs don’t require maintenance, so this seems pointless.
  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
  • Aja8888 As I type this, my 4 months old Equinox's Onstar module that controls the phone is broken. Yep, 4 months (never worked right from day one). Replacement will be a REFURBISHED unit since no new ones can be obtained (from China?). I really don't miss the phone via Bluetooth. And I have a great Garmin that I have used for years for trips which has free lifetime maps and traffic.