Monday, June 23, 2014

Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans Siberian Series Part 15: The Japanese imports of Ulaanbaatar

This is the next step in our Trans-Siberian adventure. After reporting on the impressive number of Hummers in Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar, today we have a look at one of the most peculiar characteristics of the car landscape of Ulaanbaatar (and the country): used right-hand drive Japanese imports. Hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for the last Mongolian update in this long-term Photo Report, detailing the official best-selling cars in Mongolia in 2013…

If you can’t wait for the next report, you can follow my trip in real time here, or check out 174 other car markets on my blog.

If the very high ratio of used right-hand drive Japanese imports in the streets of Ulaanbaatar was a logical continuation of what I had progressively observed as I traveled further East in Russia, the big difference is the extremely high occurrence of hybrid models, namely the first two generations Toyota Prius. It turns out that imported used hybrid cars are exempt from import taxes, but the very harsh weather Ulaanbaatar experiences during winter still makes it a puzzling choice.

Somehow hybrid cars and temperatures going down as low as -40 to -45°C seems to be an odd combination. But speaking with a few drivers in the capital city, they all told me one of the main advantages of owning a hybrid car and particularly a Toyota Prius is that they always start without a fault each morning in winter, no matter how crazy the temperature is. That is definitely not the case for non-hybrid cars, in particular the hordes of used and battered Hyundais I spotted all across the country.

My first impressions of the Ulaanbaatar car park were confirmed day after day over the two-week period I stayed in the region. Priuses Priuses everywhere… As you will see in the Mongolia best-sellers article, Toyota is the default brand when it comes to buying a new car here, and this is even more true in the used car world.

Apart from the thousands of Prius you can spot in the capital, the next three most popular used Toyotas to have travelled directly from Japan are quite familiar: they were also quite successful in Russia: the Toyota Ist, Verossa and Probox.

Three models I didn’t see often in Russia but at every street corner in Ulaanbaatar are the Toyota Crown Hybrid (all generations), the Toyota Mark II Grande with its distinctive tail-lights split by the nameplate…

…and the Toyota Mark X. The only non-Toyota that should feature among the best-selling used Japanese imports is the Nissan Tiida. I also spotted a few Nissan Elgrand, Honda Life and Element but it’s mainly a Toyota world out here.

A range I got to discover with eyes wide open in Russia was Toyota’s Will cars, and in Mongolia they have become quite common, to my amazement. So common that I have managed to take ok pictures of each member of the range above: the Will Cypha, Will Vi and Will Vs next to the ubiquitous Hummer.

Other oddities I spotted in Ulaanbaatar include the Toyota Voltz, a badge-engineered Pontiac Vibe complete with the nameplate “V” logo which in fact could stand for Voltz as well as Vibe – handy!

This is the first (and only so far) time I saw a member of the Mitsuoka brand…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia, and runs a blog called Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars around the world.

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