By Linda Spencer
Robert Park (far left), international key account manager for Rigid Industries LED Lighting in Gilbert, Arizona, described his company’s products to a large off-road distributor. “It’s great to see that the aftermarket customizing scene is alive in Russia and that U.S. products are highly sought after,” he said.
SEMA is organizing a small delegation to travel to Moscow in May to meet with buyers from throughout Russia. The trip is for those companies interested in developing brand recognition, product loyalty and working toward mid- and longer-term goals.
Please note that immediate business gains are more difficult given the current Russian economic downturn and the strong dollar (vis-à-vis the ruble). Consider whether now is the right time for you to meet with key buyers and begin your entry or expansion into this market, which includes a large number of U.S.-made vehicles, and at some point in the next five years is expected to become Europe’s largest passenger-vehicle market.
Interesting facts about the Russian automotive market:
- About 48,000 U.S.-made vehicles were imported into Russia in 2013, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report. In addition to U.S.-made vehicles exported to Russia, Ford’s 50–50 joint venture in 2013 produced the millionth Russian-built Ford-badged vehicle. In addition, Russia is GM’s fifth-largest market for its Chevrolet brand. GM sold 174,649 vehicles in Russia overall. Popularly customized vehicles, such as the Jeep Wrangler, are now officially sold in Russia.
- Russia is the world’s sixth-largest automotive market in terms of annual passenger-vehicle sales and is the second largest in Europe after Germany. Before the economic and political crisis hit, industry experts predicted that Russia would soon become the No. 1 market. Though still expected, the date for this change in positions has been delayed by several years at least as car sales are down sharply amid the uncertainty and fiscal crisis.
- Last year’s event attracted buyers from throughout Russia. Many of these buyers traveled to the 2014 SEMA Show and participated in the U.S.–Russia roundtable.
Events schedule (tentative):
Sunday, May 17
United States government briefing and networking dinner with a select group of buyers.
Monday, May 18
Visit specialty-equipment shops.
Tuesday, May 19
Roundtable discussion with buyers and a chance for private one-on-one meetings with pre-vetted buyers.
Wednesday, May 20
Depart for the United States.