Russian car boom catches eye of Japan, Germany
By JOCHEN LEGEWIE
Oil boom's impact
All in all, the maximum output capacities of plants operated or planned by overseas automakers is approaching 1 million cars per year. Clearly, something is up in mother Russia.
To put matters simply, Russia is experiencing a good old-fashioned oil boom. Its deepening ties with European energy suppliers, along with rising prices of crude oil and other resources, has created a steady stream of revenue. Having gone through a major economic crisis as recently as 1998, the country has made a complete about face and is now prudently stockpiling funds for future rainy days.
It has also been generous with its citizens. Income tax in Russia is levied at an across-the-board rate of 13 percent, making it the lowest of the major industrialized nations. Combined with extremely low utility costs, as well as pent-up demand for goods after decades of state rule, and the deepening thirst for cars comes as no surprise.
Furthermore, car ownership in Russia is still at a relatively low level of less than 20 percent. Compare that with Germany, where it's over 50 percent, or Japan, which has 44 percent. And the average age of a car in Russia is approaching 10 years, which means many car owners will soon be looking for a replacement. All of these factors add up to a steeply growing market, especially for foreign makes.
In 2002, only 112,000 foreign cars were sold in Russia. This year, the VDA is forecasting that 1,350,000 foreign vehicles will be sold — a 12-fold increase. Conversely, sales of Russian-produced cars have been on a steady decline, from 857,000 in 2002 to a forecast of 750,000 in 2007.