Toyama Pref. sees sharp increase in used car exports to Russia

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Used cars bound for Russia are lined up at the Fushiki-Toyama Port in Imizu, Toyama Prefecture.

TOYAMA — The number of used cars exported to Russia from Toyama Prefecture has increased sharply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From January to October this year, the export figure was 1.7 times higher than the same period last year, while the export value was 3.4 times higher.

High-performance used Japanese cars have become increasingly popular since Japanese and European automakers halted new car production in Russia. Many cars have been exported through Fushiki-Toyama Port, which has operated regular cargo shipping services to and from Vladivostok, Russia, for the past 10 years.

Behlum Nawab Ali, a 60-year-old Pakistani national who has exported used cars to Russia for about 30 years in Imizu in the prefecture, said, “I’ve never had so many orders come in.”

Export volume, which previously stood at about 50-100 units per month, jumped to 300 units from March this year following the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are particularly popular, and the boom has led to a number of Russian traders newly contacting Ali looking to do business.

According to Osaka Customs’ Fushiki branch office in Takaoka, around 40,000 to 60,000 units were exported from Toyama Prefecture to Russia in an average year, with export value ranging from ¥25 billion to ¥40 billion.

However, from January to October this year, exports increased to 85,521 units, with the export value jumping to ¥104 billion. Of these vehicles, 85,456 — valued at ¥103.9 billion — were destined for Russia. About 60% of the used cars exported from Japan to Russia go through Toyama Prefecture.

Japan regulates automobile exports to Russia, but only luxury cars priced at ¥6 million or more are targeted, so demand for used cars in other price ranges is rising.

Toyama Prefecture and Russia’s Primorsky region, which includes Vladivostok, signed a friendship agreement in 1992.

In 2012, the RORO vessel, which carries wheeled cargo, began operating, and it now offers 14 services each month. Around 50 companies in the prefecture export used cars via RORO.

Though some major companies are avoiding doing business with Russia, companies in Toyama Prefecture with a proven track record in used-car exports are seeing an uptick in transactions.

Prof. Katsunori Okamoto of the National Institute of Technology, Toyama College, said: “The weak yen and strong ruble are also providing a tailwind [for used-car exports]. As long as export restrictions on luxury cars in Europe and Japan remain in place, used car exports will remain strong.”