Western sanctions to sustain surge in China auto exports to Russia-CAAM

BEIJING (Reuters) – Western sanctions against Russia are boosting demand for China-made cars, and this surge could continue as long as these sanctions remain in place, an executive with China’s auto association said on Monday.

Chinese automakers are also seeking to assemble vehicles in Russia and localise production, Xu Haidong, deputy chief engineer at the China Association of Auto Manufacturers (CAAM), told reporters.

“There’s still huge demand in the Russian market but that won’t necessarily be solely reliant on imports,” Xu said.

“China’s auto exports to Russia will still be in high demand over next 2-3 years and after that China’s auto sector will likely increase their localization in the Russian market.”

Russia was the top destination for China’s auto exports for the first seven months of the year, CAAM data showed, 464,000 cars sold. Mexico was in the second spot with 224,000 units.

For the whole of last year, Mexico was the top importer of Chinese cars with 254,000 units while Russia was the fifth-largest importer with 162,000 units, the CAAM data showed.

Imported Chinese cars now account for 49% of Russia’s market, reaching 40,000 units in June, compared with a pre-war share of just 7% in June 2021, according to data from analytics firm Autostat. Chinese firms are also assembling vehicles in Russia, taking over factories vacated by Western automakers.

China is the world’s largest auto market, but Chinese automakers are increasingly looking abroad to offset intense competition and weakening demand at home.

(Reporting by Qiaoyi Li, Zoey Zhang and Brenda Goh; editing by Miral Fahmy)