Russian carmaker Avtovaz is looking to boost production through exports abroad in 2024, including target markets in Iran and Egypt, according to the carmaker’s president, Maxim Sokolov. It follows a two-year decline in foreign sales. Russian cargo carrier, Fesco said it would support the carmaker’s export plans with a specialised fleet of car-carrying vessels, which is subject to Avtovaz receiving a concrete export order.
Avtovaz aims to export 25,000 finished vehicles in 2024 and gradually push this figure to 100,000 units through 2030, Sokolov said.
The Russian automaker is in talks with Iran about directly exporting finished vehicles and opening an assembly plant in the country. Avtovaz is looking into opening a similar facility in Egypt, said Sokolov, though he has not provided additional details about the measures will take to facilitate the exports.
In September 2023, Fesco unveiled plans to buy a specialised fleet of car-carrying vessels to help Avtovaz export its finished vehicles to Africa and other emerging markets. This move would be in line with the company’s general strategy of diversifying its fleet, which is primarily comprised of container carriers, Andrey Severilov, Fesco chairman of the board, reported.
The decision to establish a fleet of ro-ro vessels will be made once Avtovaz secures “a concrete order” for its finished vehicles overseas, Severilov stated.
In July 2023, Severilov said that the idea of forming a fleet of such vessels was originally put forward by Sokolov as Avtovaz sought to export its export opportunities in emerging markets.
Speaking about the possible cooperation with Fesco, Sokolov said that exporting finished vehicles in cooperation with this company was only one of the options on the table. In addition, Sokolov said the the company was considering leasing ocean-going vessels to deliver finished vehicles to Africa and South America.
Severilov said new vessel purchases would not be a problem for the company given the global market for such ships remained open for Russian businesses.
Fesco used to be Russia’s largest privately owned container shipping line. In January 2023, the government moved to nationalise the company, and several months later, 93% of the government stake went to Rosatom, a Russian state nuclear corporation.
Western sanctions have wreaked havoc on the Russian logistics sector in 2022, temporarily disrupting the export of commodities from the country. As the leading western cargo carriers and logistics firms severed their ties with Russia, the country has started buying transport vessels to keep the export of vital goods running.
Over the past two years, the lion’s share of Russian oil has been transferred by a so-called shadow fleet comprised of nearly 500 ships, many old tankers. A similar fleet has been established to export grain and other agricultural commodities.
In previous years, Russia was heavily dependent on foreign fleets for volume vehicle shipments and unwilling to invest directly without long-term customer commitments, according to one source in the Russian automotive logistics industry. Customers, in turn, were unwilling to assume risks and liabilities because the situation around domestic and foreign sales was unpredictable, the source explained.
In 2021, Russia exported 89,100 finished vehicles worth almost $1.4 billion, the Russian state statistical service Rosstat estimated. In 2022, exports are believed to have plummeted nearly threefold, though concrete figures are not available.
However, even in previous years, Russian finished vehicles primarily landed in the post-Soviet countries of the CIS region, while volumes delivered by sea were very low.
In the end, the source said, the whole initiative will depend on foreign demand for Russian brands. Given the present state of the Russian automotive industry, the source said, he would not expect any groundbreaking results in the foreseeable future.
Chinese exports from Russia
Russia’s finished vehicle exports could get a boost from Chinese businesses looking for new opportunities on the global market.
For instance, Moskvitch, a reborn Soviet brand assembling JAC finished vehicles, is considering launching vehicle exports, according to Oleg Maslyakov, director of the Moskvitch plant.
Russia can export Moskvitch vehicles to friendly countries under various inter-governmental agreements, said Sergey Udalov, executive director of Avtostat, a Moscow-based think tank. However, establishing exports to other markets is going to be a tricky task and will depend on agreements with China-based partners. Those companies could be interested in exporting automotive products from the Russian production sites, said Udalov.
Chinese businesses have become the main beneficiary of the exodus of western firms from the Russian automotive market. In 2022, seven Chinese automakers generated a record-breaking revenue of 346 billion roubles ($3.6 billion) in Russia, 91% up compared with the previous year. Their combined net profit totalled 79 billion roubles ($9 billion), against a net loss in previous years.