VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Kyodo) Mitsui & Co. is considering assembling Toyota sport utility vehicles in the Russian city of Vladivostok in a joint venture with Russian automaker Sollers, sources said Thursday.
Production would begin around 2012 if the relevant parties can reach agreement, the sources said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made industrial promotion in the Far East one of his key policy goals, and Moscow has requested Japanese carmakers make cars there.
The deal would likely become an embodiment of Japan-Russia economic cooperation at a time of souring relations following recent visits by President Dmitry Medvedev and other officials to the disputed Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.
The venture would assemble Toyota SUVs at a factory to be built at a site in Vladivostok owned by Sollers, Russia’s third-largest automaker. The parts would be imported from Japan.
Major trading house Mitsui has been seeking to cash in on the distribution business using the Trans-Siberian Railway, with the SUVs to be shipped to various regions across Russia via the railway, they said.
The Russian government has been trying to motivate foreign carmakers to set up production bases in the isolated region by allowing them to use the railway for transport free of charge. Sollers has been assembling vehicles from South Korea’s SsangYong Motor Co. in Vladivostok since December 2009.
Toyota has been producing 20,000 Camry sedans annually at a factory in St. Petersburg since 2007. The envisioned Vladivostok factory would be its second production base in Russia.
Toyota-brand vehicles have become quite popular in the Russian Far East. The Sollers group of companies manufactures trucks and buses.
Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 for a series of safety issues. But the U.S government this week concluded that there were no glitches in the electronic throttle system used in Toyota cars.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano welcomed the U.S. move during a news conference Thursday.
“It is extremely good that it was made clear that Toyota’s system is not the reason (behind the acceleration cases),” Edano said, voicing hope that Toyota would take the “opportunity” to make further efforts to convince overseas customers of the “safety and high-performance of Japanese cars.”
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