World Markets Research Centre reports that a total of 628,977 cars were imported into Russia in 2002, up 19% from 526,557 in 2001, according to the Russian State Customs Committee.

As a result, customs payments of around 49.3 billion roubles ($US1.5 billion) were received for the import of vehicles, up 37%.

Vehicles produced in Russia accounted for just 3% of imports, with 16,258 units. The majority of cars imported by individuals in Russia were Japanese and German marques, with 51.6 and 39.6% respectively. Of the total imported vehicles, 80% were imported by private individuals.

The introduction in October 2002 of new import duties for cars older than seven years reduced their import. From October 2002, the monthly volume of cars imported dropped by almost 40% and the number imported by individuals slumped by 50%. In addition, the Russian government is considering setting equal terms for cars imported by individuals and companies.