Comtrans: The bear is back

From the August 2017 issue.

With the domestic economy on the brink of a recovery and truck sales at a record high, the 2017 edition of Comtrans could mark the official resurgence of the Russian heavy vehicle industry.

The timing seemed almost too good to be true. Within days of Sergey Alexandrov, General Director of ITEMF Expo, announcing the return of Comtrans to Moscow’s Crocus Expo Centre in 2017, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report saying the Russian economy was finally ready to rebound from the deepest recession in a decade.

After years of suffering from plummeting oil prices and international trade sanctions, the OECD’s optimistic assessment – albeit cautious – helped refute at least some of the scepticism that had surrounded the Russian truck market ever since the Russian military intervention in Ukraine in early 2014, which left the nation virtually cut off from the western world.

Even though the OECD report concluded that the Russian economy would remain “relatively closed” for the foreseeable future, saying fiscal tightening and low infrastructure investment might still jeopardise the recovery, it provided a timely boost to Alexandrov’s marketing campaign. With heavy vehicle sales now also on the rise, the 36-year-old is confident that both Russia and Comtrans are once again headed for a bright future.

Q: Russia’s commercial vehicle market has had to face intense pressure in recent years. Do you think the crisis is now coming to an end?
A: After the historic peak of new commercial vehicle sales in 2012, the market suffered a dramatic downfall – reaching its bottom line in 2015, the year of the last Comtrans event. But the economy is recovering gradually. Boosted partly by deferred demand from 2015, the commercial vehicle market has grown 40 per cent in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016 – so it’s safe to say we’re on the right track. Also don’t forget that there are more than eight million commercial vehicles registered in Russia, so there’s always a strong base market. Since 2009, that number has increased by over 13 percent, which equates to almost one million vehicles. So if you want to talk business potential, it’s safe to say Russia is a strong prospect.

Q: Does that also affect Comtrans?
A: Yes, the upward trend is also good for Comtrans. Compared to 2015, many companies have expanded their exhibition space for the next edition. The tendency is simple to explain, too – a market revival inevitably leads to increased competition, especially since a lot of foreign companies lost their market share to domestic producers in the last three years. The growth in exhibition space is testament to many manufacturers’ expectations that the market will continue to grow. What’s more, companies that missed the exhibition in 2015, like Volkswagen or DAF, are returning to Comtrans in 2017. The European ‘big seven’ will once again face off against the local Russian trucking elite.

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