Russia to Make Cars in Far East Region

Wants to get local market away from foreign imports

Russia will this year launch auto assembly production in its Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov announced last week, in a bid to wean the local market off foreign imports.

"An agreement has been reached about the creation of a car assembly plant in (the Far Eastern region of) Primorye," he said on a visit to the city of Vladivostok. "The first stage of this project will be launched at the end of 2009," he said.

The government last year announced a controversial rise in the tariffs on imported cars, a move that provoked protests in Vladivostok where consumers have long preferred models from neighboring Japan and Korea.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has sought to protect the Russian car industry which has been hit hard as consumers tighten their belts amid the economic slowdown.

Deputy Industry Minister Andrei Dementyev said an agreement on launching car assembly in Primorye had already been made between the authorities and Russian auto firm Sollers. "By 2012 full auto assembly production will be created," he said. Sollers owns factories which produce brands including the Russian UAZ off-road vehicle as well as vehicles from Italy's Fiat and Japan's Isuzu.

He said production would start with buses, minibuses, off-road vehicles and heavy goods vehicles. No further details on the production were available.

The government has been criticized by analysts for promoting the transport of vehicles made in European Russia across several time zones to the Far East to protect the domestic auto industry from foreign imports.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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