Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans Siberian Series Part 15: The Japanese Imports of Ulaanbaatar

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

This is the next step in our Trans-Siberian adventure. After reporting on the impressive number of Hummers in Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar, today we have a look at one of the most peculiar characteristics of the car landscape of Ulaanbaatar (and the country): used right-hand drive Japanese imports. Hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for the last Mongolian update in this long-term Photo Report, detailing the official best-selling cars in Mongolia in 2013…

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.

First generation Toyota Prius

If the very high ratio of used right-hand drive Japanese imports in the streets of Ulaanbaatar was a logical continuation of what I had progressively observed as I traveled further East in Russia, the big difference is the extremely high occurrence of hybrid models, namely the first two generations Toyota Prius. It turns out that imported used hybrid cars are exempt from import taxes, but the very harsh weather Ulaanbaatar experiences during winter still makes it a puzzling choice.

Toyota Verossa and second generation Prius

Somehow hybrid cars and temperatures going down as low as -40 to -45°C seems to be an odd combination. But speaking with a few drivers in the capital city, they all told me one of the main advantages of owning a hybrid car and particularly a Toyota Prius is that they always start without a fault each morning in winter, no matter how crazy the temperature is. That is definitely not the case for non-hybrid cars, in particular the hordes of used and battered Hyundais I spotted all across the country.

Toyota Corolla and Prius

My first impressions of the Ulaanbaatar car park were confirmed day after day over the two-week period I stayed in the region. Priuses Priuses everywhere… As you will see in the Mongolia best-sellers article, Toyota is the default brand when it comes to buying a new car here, and this is even more true in the used car world.

Nissan Elgrand

Apart from the thousands of Prius you can spot in the capital, the next three most popular used Toyotas to have travelled directly from Japan are quite familiar: they were also quite successful in Russia: the Toyota Ist, Verossa and Probox.

Toyota Crown Hybrid

Three models I didn’t see often in Russia but at every street corner in Ulaanbaatar are the Toyota Crown Hybrid (all generations), the Toyota Mark II Grande with its distinctive tail-lights split by the nameplate…

Toyota Mark X and Prius

…and the Toyota Mark X. The only non-Toyota that should feature among the best-selling used Japanese imports is the Nissan Tiida. I also spotted a few Nissan Elgrand, Honda Life and Element but it’s mainly a Toyota world out here.

Toyota Will Cypha
Toyota Will Vi
Toyota Will Vs and Hummer

A range I got to discover with eyes wide open in Russia was Toyota’s Will cars, and in Mongolia they have become quite common, to my amazement. So common that I have managed to take ok pictures of each member of the range above: the Will Cypha, Will Vi and Will Vs next to the ubiquitous Hummer.

Pontiac Vibe? Nope, Toyota Voltz

Other oddities I spotted in Ulaanbaatar include the Toyota Voltz, a badge-engineered Pontiac Vibe complete with the nameplate “V” logo which in fact could stand for Voltz as well as Vibe – handy!

Mitsuoka Ryoga

This is the first (and only so far) time I saw a member of the Mitsuoka brand…

Honda Element
Autech Nissan March Bolero and Toyota Prius
Toyota Mark II Grande
Toyota Probox
Toyota Ist
Toyota Allion
Toyota Mark X Zio
Toyota Mark X

Toyota Noah

Toyota Raum
The distinctive tail-lights of the Toyota Mark II Grande
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius and Ford Scorpio
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia, and runs a blog called Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars around the world.

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6 of 21 comments
  • Wheeler Wheeler on Jun 24, 2014

    Matt, thanks for another great report about the more exotic car markets. I'm surprised not to hear about a fair number of imports from China. But when I think about it, I realize that very little effort has been made by China's automakers, to penetrate the market of this northern neighbor, Outer Mongolia. As for the Prius's I have to wonder if everyone just drives ice cold for the first twenty minutes or so, or are block heaters, or auxiliary electric heaters, popular so drivers have a warm car to start out their mornings with.

    • See 2 previous
    • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Jun 26, 2014

      @wheeler That's interesting. The Escape Hybrid always starts the ICE when fired up, even if there seems to be no reason for it. Sometimes it runs for only a few seconds. So you can't impress people with a silent start and glide away. A friend of mine has a '10 Prius, I'll ask him if it behaves like your hybrid.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jun 24, 2014

    I like the Probox, it's so serious looking. It's like the guy at your office who when someone says, "Wait! Who knows how to take care of ____?!" he makes a serious face and goes, "Yeah, I'll just do it."

    • Old Man Pants Old Man Pants on Jun 24, 2014

      Yes! The guy I get to build InfoPath forms. I cherish Danny. Must stop kidding him about his farting Saab.

  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.
  • El scotto None of them. The auto industry is full of people with huge egos. It's a case of huge ego = never ever being wrong.GM: The true believers end up at Bowling Green. A fast rising GM executive that just didn't quite make it: Truck & Bus, Fort Wayne isn't really that far from Detroit!Ford: Billy Ford once again, and it seems perpetually, convincing his doubtful relatives not to sell their preferred stock. I give VW a 50/50 shot at buying out Ford; a family buying out another family.Tesla: Straight from Elon: "My Tesla has hidden compartments for handcuffs, ask my latest girlfriend where they're located"Stellantis: Get used to flying to Schiphol. You'll have luggage, lots of luggage.None of the Big 3 will ever admit they were wrong. Tesla will just keep gaining market share.
  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]