Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 8: Irkutsk, Siberia

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
best selling cars around the globe trans siberian series part 8 irkutsk siberia
Honda Airwave

We continue on our Trans-Siberian railway adventure: the last stop was Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, we are now moving 855km East to Irkutsk, which is 80km off Lake Baikal. And here again a fascinating car landscape awaits… From roughly 30% of the traffic in Omsk and Tomsk to half in Krasnoyarsk, we are now faced with a proper invasion of used Japanese imports! Jump in for the full report!

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

Honda Stepwgn

I have estimated that around two-third of all vehicles in circulation in Irkutsk are coming straight from Japan, complete with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car! This has been one of the most unbelievable evolutions I have witnessed along my trip: starting in St Petersburg and Moscow where absolutely all vehicles are ‘correct’ and left-hand drive, the car park has progressively shifted its steering wheel to the right to reach a very clear majority here in Irkutsk. If in Krasnoyarsk the Toyota Ist was the most popular, here like in Omsk the Toyota Probox is the clear winner, and I have also seen a few with the ‘Succeed’ nameplate.

Toyota Probox

Before going through the rest of the most successful Japanese imports, it is important to notice the other main characteristic of the Irkutsk car landscape: the predominance of station wagons. Much more so than in any other city I have visited so far, it seems to be a format that particularly fits the needs of car buyers in this region of Russia. In this context, you would assume the Lada Largus is a resounding success here, but weirdly, not so. This trend seems to have confined itself to Japanese imports, to the exception of a few Kia Cee’d and Peugeot 308 SW.

Zhiguli

So it won’t come as a surprise then that the Nissan Wingroad and Honda Airwave are by far the most popular Nippon imports in Irkutsk along with the Toyota Probox and Honda Stream. Those very particular Japanese MPVs have also struck a chord here: I’m speaking of the Toyota Alphard, Voxy, Noah, Nissan Serena and other Honda Stepwgn. Other successes include the Toyota Allion, Ractis, Ipsum, Gaia, Regius and Verossa – I saw 2 in the space of one minute here, the same number I had seen since my arrival in Russia, Mitsubishi Mirage Dingo, Dion and Honda Mobilio. The Toyota Will range has now become commonplace: I spotted all 3 models (Cypha, VS and Vi).

Lada Granta
Lada Classic and Honda Airwave

If this description kind of sounds like I am in a Japanese city, that’s because it’s almost how it feels being in Irkutsk. There are still hordes of Zhiguli and Lada Classic around, but even the police has gone West, driving in Ford Focus or Fiat Linea. The Lada Samara and Kalina are rare, as are the Granta and Priora that are clean enough to still be considered new. I would still bet on a Top 10 ranking for the Granta here, but just.

Cadillac SRX
Infiniti FX
Toyota Tundra

On the other hand, I have observed a level of new luxury cars and large SUVs potentially unrivalled since Moscow, in line with Irkutsk’s wealth as the biggest city near the touristic Lake Baikal. The new generation Range Rover is back in force, the Infiniti FX is not limited to the ‘resident’ one anymore: I saw dozens of them in the city, along with Infiniti QX56, Nissan Patrol, Cadillac SRX, BMW 3 and 1 Series, Ford Explorer and F-Series, Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra…

Hyundai Solaris

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Hyundai Solaris should be the best-seller in Irkutsk, once again extremely consistent across absolutely all the cities I’ve passed, much more so than the Lada Granta for example which is an astounding achievement and a big surprise as far as I am concerned.

Toyota RAV4

The main difference in the best-sellers list in Irkutsk compared to the rest of the country is the even keener taste for small Asian SUVs: the new generation Toyota RAV4 is literally everywhere already and could be fighting with the Hyundai Solaris for the top spot overall (yep, that much), while the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Nissan Juke, Toyota Prado, Hyundai ix35, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Suzuki Grand Vitara (in this order) are clearly over-represented here. On the other hand, I didn’t see many Renault Duster.

Mazda CX-5

Vladimir from the #1 Russian magazine Za Rulem told me back in Moscow that Mazda and SsangYong had opened assembly plants in Vladivostok, 4,000 km East of Irkutsk, in order to try and woo East-Russian consumers back to left-hand drive cars. I could spot that influence a little in Irkutsk: the Mazda CX-5 is much more frequent than usual, as are the SsangYong Actyon and Actyon Sports. But it’s not a flood yet, so Irkutskers are clearly not that convinced at this stage.

FAW V5 and Daewoo Matiz

Another category of cars that seems to be more popular here than in other places are the minis: I saw many Kia Venga, Picanto and Chevrolet Spark. Finally, Chinese company FAW is clearly doing a big push in Irkustk with one FAW V5 exhibited near the central bus station (along with an UZ-Daewoo Matiz) and one I picked in the streets, but so far Chinese models are still very limited in the streets of Irkutsk, with the odd Lifan Solano, Chery Indis, Great Wall Hover and BYD F3 spotted.

ZiL 5301 “Bychek” (thanks Bad_Q, Ian and LCV News)

Irkutsk September 2013 best-sellers – rough estimate:

PosModel1Hyundai Solaris2Toyota RAV43Nissan Qashqai4Kia Sportage5Kia Rio6Ford Focus7VW Polo8Nissan Juke9Mazda CX-510Lada Granta
Nissan Wingroad and Ford Focus
Honda CR-V
Irkutsk traffic
Ford Explorer
VW Polo
Kia Rio
Honda Pilot
BMW X6
Hyundai Santa Fe
Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota Highlander
Nissan Juke
Nissan Serena
Toyota Corolla Fielder
Honda Spike
Toyota Probox
Honda Stepwgn
Chery X1 (aka Indis)
Lifan Solano and VW Polo
Irkutsk traffic

This was Irkutsk! Hope you enjoyed and that your ears are not frozen yet, because our next stop is the shores of Lake Baikal whose water temperature rarely goes above 10 degrees Celsius / 50 degrees Farhenheit…

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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  • JD-Tippit JD-Tippit on Dec 02, 2013

    Why are the cars so dirty from the waistline down?

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Dec 02, 2013

    So, what's so bad with the wheel on the other side? I saw a RHD tour bus in San Fancisco just recently, and of course drivers of mail trucks got buy for decades.

    • Pch101 Pch101 on Dec 02, 2013

      Passing is more dangerous with the wheel on the wrong side.

  • Dianne Started my investments by learning from the wrong people and you guessed right, that turned on me in the worst way possible. In 16 months, I had lost approximately $100,000. The bitter part of investment that no one talks about. That was too much over such a short duration of time. What makes the system can also break it. And so I decided to try out MYSTERIOUS HACKER on the same to get back my money. Had futile attempts for 2 months. Until I crossed paths with a Mysterious hacker. All he asked for was a few details regarding the investment and in a couple hours, I had my money back without any upfront payment.WEBSITE: https://mysterioushacker.info TELEGRAM: +15625539611 EMAIL: mysterioushack666@cyber-wizard.com
  • Dianne Started my investments by learning from the wrong people and you guessed right, that turned on me in the worst way possible. In 16 months, I had lost approximately $100,000. The bitter part of investment that no one talks about. That was too much over such a short duration of time. What makes the system can also break it. And so I decided to try out MYSTERIOUS HACKER on the same to get back my money. Had futile attempts for 2 months. Until I crossed paths with a Mysterious hacker. All he asked for was a few details regarding the investment and in a couple hours, I had my money back without any upfront payment.WEBSITE: https://mysterioushacker.info TELEGRAM: +15625539611 EMAIL: mysterioushack666@cyber-wizard.com🥭
  • Tre65688381 Definitely more attractive than it's German rivals, but I'd still rather have the standard GV80. One of the best looking mid size SUV/Crossovers on the road, in my opinion. And the updates for 2024 hone it gently in the right direction with more tasteful but subtle changes.
  • TheEndlessEnigma GM, Ford and Stellantis have significant oversupply of product sitting on dealer lots and banked up in holding yards across the country. Big 3 management is taking advantage of UAW's action to bring their inventories inline to what they deem reasonable. When you have models pushing 6 months of supply having your productions lines shut down by a strike is not something that's going to worry you. UAW does not have any advantages here, but they are directly impacting the financial well being of their membership. Who will be the first to blink? Those UAW members waving the signs around and receiving "strike pay" that is, what, 20% of their wages? UAW is screwing up this time around.
  • CEastwood Seven mil nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight for oil changes and such and the thicker heavy duty gripper gloves from Wally World for most everything else . Hell we used to use no gloves for any of that and when we did it was usually the white cloth gloves bought by the dozen or the gray striped cuff ones for heavy duty use . Old man rant over , but I laugh when I see these types of gloves in a bargain bin at Home Cheapo for 15 bucks a pair !
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