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Japanese automakers target Russia for growth

By Takeo Miyazaki, The Yomiuri Shimbun –

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — Amid expectations of growth in the Russian automobile market, optimistic Japanese automakers are teaming up with their Russian counterparts to launch operations this autumn in Vladivostok.

On Thursday, Mazda Motor Corp. and major Russian automaker Sollers held an opening ceremony for a joint production company in the Russian Far East port city.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the event and said the joint venture is an important project.

From October the plant will manufacture Mazda CX-5 cars and Mazda6 vehicles, known as Atenza in Japan, which will then be transported to Moscow and other cities by the Siberian Railway.

“We hope to increase production at the plant to about 100,000 units in the future. We’re considering investing 25 billion yen in the plant and employing 3,000 workers,” Mazda President Takashi Yamanouchi said.

In a neighboring area, Mitsui & Co. and Sollers are preparing to establish a joint venture to produce Toyota Motor Co.’s Land Cruiser Prado cars starting as early as this year.

Japanese automakers are optimistic about the growth potential of Russia’s auto market, with sales expected to increase from 2.56 million units in 2011 to about 3 million units in 2015, surpassing Germany to become Europe’s largest auto market.

Russia is aiming to attract foreign companies to the Far East region to stimulate the sluggish economy.

For Japanese firms, Russia is an attractive location for car production because using the Siberian Railway can reduce the time it takes to move vehicles to Europe by two weeks.

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