In post-Soviet Russia, domestic car brands such as Moskvich and Jiguli have largely given way to imports. There are Ford and Chevrolet factories in Russia now, and these are supposed to have very strong sales.
I don’t see all that many Fords and Chevys in Siberia, however. Here the vast majority of cars are Japanese. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai dominate, with other Asian brands such as the occasional Kia thrown in.
None of this is surprising, really. The shocking thing is that, although in Russia they drive on the right side of the road, as we do, there are many cars with their steering also on the right. Everyone knows that in England and Japan, where they drive on the left side of the road, this is normal. But Russia has to be one of the few countries where the driver may be situated on either side of the vehicle.
This is because there’s a booming industry of importing used cars from Japan. These cars are solid and reliable, and thus many Russians are more willing to pay a lesser price for a good used car than to fork out for a new. There are constant rumblings from legislators about banning right-hand steering on Russian roads, but so far the practice continues.
My students who come from the European part of Russia are usually as amazed as I was to see how steering wheels may be on the right. This seems to be a Siberian phenomenon.
How many of these right-wheeled cars are on the road? I have no statistics, but my observation tells me that in my area, at least, somewhere between a third and half of the cars are these used Japanese imports.
Is it safe to have them on the road? Again, data is lacking, but this right-right driving seems not to be a significant cause of accidents.
Seeing and riding in these cars is a constant reminder how geographically close to and economically involved with eastern Asia Siberia really is.