Russia auto imports grow in 2011
Russia saw a 46% increase of vehicle imports in the period January to November 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, raising the number to 901,500 vehicles. According to data from the Russian Federal Customs Agency, nearly 776,000 of these were from countries outside of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
There has also been an increase of nearly 90% in the number of trucks imported to the country over the same period, totalling almost 90,000 units, with all but 700 coming from outside the CIS.
The sharp rise in imports follows the collapse of sales and imported vehicles that followed the fall in sales of the Russian market by more than half in 2009.
Meanwhile automotive exports to other countries numbered 57,000 units, an increase of 46% and worth $430m.
The Russian automotive market remains highly attractive to global carmakers because of the relatively low level of car ownership in the country. There were around 224 cars per 1,000 people in 2010, according to Frost & Sullivan, with a strong potential for an increase to slightly over 290 cars per 1,000 people by 2015. 
The country finally joined the World Trade Organisation in December last year following discussions that had lasted 18 years. The subsequent removal of trade barriers is likely to stimulate greater and more diversified trade between Russia and the rest of the world, not least in the automotive industry. However, opening the Russian market to direct imports will be a challenge for the local market, as the growth figures suggest, which led Russian authorities to negotiate a transitional period that would allow Russian manufacturers to modernise and update production.
The adjustment period required to modernise and update production will have to run in conjunction with a reduction of the import tariffs on cars and trucks. Russian manufacturers of passenger vehicles will have around seven years to invest in modernisation and increase production efficiency, according to Frost & Sullivan. Import tariffs on passenger cars are set to reach 15% by 2019.
Earlier in 2011, the Russian government also negotiated privileged duty rates for foreign manufacturers who signed up to certain production and localisation targets, known as Decree 166.
According to PriceWaterhouseCoppers, Russia produced 1,740,000 vehicles in 2011 an increase of 45% on the previous year and the highest production level to date in Russia. However, of the total sum, the increase rate of the local brands remained lower in comparison to foreign manufacturers that have established themselves in the country.
Panalpina opens Moscow centre
Logistics provider Panalpina has opened a new logistics centre on the outskirts of Moscow (pictured) aimed at improving high-value inbound freight flows to Russia that it says is particularly suited to the automotive and hi-tech sectors amongst others.
The centre, which is on a major route between Europe and Russia and within 70km of three airports, offers storage, cross-docking and value-added services. It features almost 8,000 pallet locations in a 6,000-square metre storage area as well as a 2,500-square mere crossdock with 15 inbound and outbound docks.
 “We can now offer our customers very attractive end-to-end supply chain solutions in Russia inbound,” said Stefan Karlen, area manager for Black and Caspian Sea at Panalpina.
He went on to detail that the offering included multimodal international and local transport, customs brokerage, crossdocking, storage and value-added logistics services, as well as distribution across the Russian Federation.
A spokesman for the company said that key services for the automotive industry included inbound production logistics, order and milkrun management, control towers, JIT/JIS delivery systems and material quality inspection.
The centre lies within the Krekshino logistics park and Panalpina was keen to stress the security advantages of the centre which it recognised was a top priority for its customers.
time:matters expands Romanian network
Lufthansa’s priority logistics division, time:matters, has expanded its same day air network in Romania. Effective immediately, Timisoara Airport (TSR) is available for highly urgent shipments. Timisoara is, together with Bucharest, the second time:matters station in Romania.

Lufthansa can now offer customers from the Timisoara region direct flights to hubs in Munich and Vienna several times a day. The service gives exclusive access to the entire European time:matters sameday air network consisting of more than 100 stations and 24 partner airlines said the company.

"The new station in Romania is especially beneficial for our customers in the IT and automotive industries that are strongly represented in the region surrounding Timisoara,” said Franz-Joseph Miller, CEO of time:matters. “Due to excellent connections via Munich and Vienna, highly urgent shipments reach all major European cities within the shortest amount of time, for example Paris in less than four hours. With this expansion of our service, we save our customers both time and money."

FTA launches Mode Shift Centre
The Freight Transport Association has launched a new free service aimed at helping shippers and forwarders using rail and water in the UK to find greater efficiency.
Called the Mode Shift Centre, the service offering is the result of discussions between FTA, government and the rail and water freight industries to try to raise awareness across the logistics sector of what other modes can offer as a complement to road. The service will link with and expand the continuing work of Freight by Water – the UK’s Short-sea Promotion Centre, which FTA took on at the end of 2010.
“To meet the needs of the modern supply chain, and to meet our challenging climate change targets, it is vital that all aspects of the supply chain are used to their fullest extent,” said Christopher Snelling, FTA’s head of supply chain policy. "Our aim is to help those potential users that are not yet familiar with non-road operations to learn more about them in a non-commercial environment."
More information is available here
Penske expands workforce
Penske Truck Leasing and Penske Logistics is expanding its workforce in the US and Canada with a plan to hire approximately 3,500 staff to meet demand for transport services across the two divisions. Around 3,300 positions will be sought in the US and a further 200 in Canada.
The company is looking for candidates across a range of services including logistics and supply chain positions.

"We're pleased to continue this positive hiring trend at our North American operations in 2012," said Ken Hurley, senior vice president of human resources for Penske Truck Leasing. "We look forward to adding new associates to our talented, diverse team."

In other news, Penske Automotive Group has approved an 11% increase in the company’s dividend to $0.10 per share, the highest quarterly dividend in the history of the company according to president Rob Kumick. He said it demonstrated the strength of the division’s financial position in an improving automotive retail environment.
Earlier this month Penske Automotive expanded its UK presence with the acquisition of the Isaac Agnew Group of dealerships. The acquired dealerships, located in Belfast, Portadown and Newtonabbey, handle vehicles for Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Seat, Suzuki, Volvo and VW.