A new beginning

Russia’s largest heavy vehicle show, Comtrans, made a celebrated comeback on the international trade show stage at the beginning of September, with attendance up 27 per cent over the 2015 edition and business sentiment at a new high following a lengthy period of slow economic growth across the Federation.

“The current growth in the Russian commercial vehicle market has encouraged many Russian, but [also] international exhibitors to participate [in the show again],” commented Show Director Sergey Rybchak of ITEMF Expo, the company behind Comtrans. “[They] told us about a generally friendly mood in the market and an increased demand for current, environmentally friendly and economical vehicle models with modern technology.”

According to Rybchak, many international OEMs have lost market share in Russia since the 2015 edition of Comtrans – making the 2017 event a “perfect platform” to recover lost ground in a market that is still largely untapped from a technology perspective. With a host of new manufacturers from Turkey, China, Korea and Japan joining the fold, however, there is now more competition than ever aiming for a slice of the pie, he added – especially in the truck space, where new emissions regulations and a growing need for customised equipment have led to a spike in research and development.

Local juggernaut Kamaz, for example, gave visitors a sneak peek at the new 54901 heavy-duty model, a long-distance prime mover based on the current Mercedes-Benz Actros that will be produced locally in Russia and meet both Euro V and VI standards. To be equipped with “numerous driver assistance systems”, it is slated come to market within the next five years, Kamaz CEO, Sergey Kogogin, revealed.

Fellow Russian heavyweight, GAZ, meanwhile, turned heads at Comtrans with the Sobol concept vehicle, an amphibious ‘All-Terrain Crawler’ truck, and an off-road unit dubbed Vepr. The company also launched a new 6×4 model designed to open up new markets in the booming light construction segment – which is closely tied to tipper manufacturing – as well as a right-hand drive 6×6 model for the export market.

US powerhouse Ford followed the same example with the presentation of a factory tipper model labelled 3542D that was “specially configured” for the Russian market and the country’s gruelling climate. “Ford is ambitious to get a larger piece of the cake and catch up with the Big Seven in Russia,” Rybchak commented on the move.

Also in the medium-duty category, a new 12-tonne rigid by Belarusian OEM MAZ premiered at Comtrans that is expected to shake up the booming city delivery market as early as 2018 – the same year Volkswagen’s new Crafter and the new Ford Transit generation will arrive in Russia with the same intention.

The trailer segment proved less bullish at the show, according to media reports, with many OEMs banking on “proven technology” to test the waters before committing to investing in localised equipment again. Despite a distinct lack of new technology on show, they were still “well represented at Comtrans,” organisers concluded in a muted media statement. “In particular the large international players… such as Krone, Wielton, Meiller, CIMC, Lohr, Kässbohrer, Nursan and Koluman.”

Europe’s best-selling brand, Schmitz Cargobull, set a rare technology highlight by announcing the Russian launch of the S.KO refrigerated semi-trailer range at the event, as well as the new generation S.CS curtain-sider model. Rival Kögel also helped break the mould with the first-ever showcase of the company’s new three-axle, 27m³ tipper model in Russia – a move that seemingly soothed organisers and allowed for an overall positive verdict.

“Comtrans has hardly ever seen such a quantity and quality of vehicle premieres and presentations before,” Rybchak explained after an eventful week – adding that the success of the show also reflected growing faith in the Russian economy at large. Despite competition from the IAA-backed North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) Show, which was held around the same time in Atlanta, Comtrans thus still has to be considered the “second most important international commercial vehicle fair after IAA Commercial Vehicles,” he said.

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