Rolf Group has sold a further 18% of its Rolf Import business to Mitsubishi in a move it said would strengthen its distribution business for the Japanese carmaker in Russia.

Rolf Import is Mitsubishi’s exclusive distributor in Russia, and the move now gives the carmaker and its parent company a controlling stake in the company. Mitsubishi’s parent company Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) has taken an extra 9% stake to bring its share in Rolf Import to 49%, while Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MCC, the car-producing arm of Mitsubishi) has taken another 9%. The Rolf Group now owns 42% of the division.

The Rolf Group has been operating Mitsubishi car sales and distribution in Russia since 1992. In 2004, the MMC-related business was transferred to Rolf Import, to specialise in MMC cars only. Mitsubishi Corporation joined the partnership in 2009 taking a 40% share of the business for $200m, which was when the two companies launched their alliance.

Faced with plummeting business at the time Rolf said would be unlikely to continue trading unless the agreement with Mitsubishi Corporation got the go ahead (read more here).

In relation to the latest sale, MMC said its participation would improve product planning and allow quicker response to market needs, “ultimately expanding sales in an increasingly competitive Russian market.”

The Russian car market has recovered from the downturn and saw sales climb to around 2.9m last year.

Rolf Group’s CEO, Igor Salita, said it was now the time for a tighter involvement amongst its Japanese partners.“The core reason to execute this new stage of the deal is to allow such a great business as Rolf Import to shift to a totally new level,” he said.

MMC vehicles, mainly its SUV models, are showing positive sales in Russia with 74,000 units sold in 2012, according to a statement from the carmaker.

MMC established a factory in Russia's Kaluga province in May 2008 together with PSA Peugeot Citroën and began full-scale manufacturing of the Outlander SUV in November 2012. The company said it plans to increase the range of models manufactured in Russia and include the Pajero Sport.

The latest move follows NYK’s purchase of a 51% controlling in Rolf SCS, the Rolf Group logistics division that handles finished vehicle logistics as well as, storage, customs and port services for a range of customers. That joint venture is designed to enhance finished vehicle logistics services in Russia and expand the customer base of each company. Rolf retains the remaining 49% stake.

 Rolf SCS recently announced that it was developing a vehicle transporter division in Russia’s Far East and will send its first five car carriers there next month following interest from distributors in the region.