UK car industry rejects claim it's benefiting from sales to Russia

New Rolls-Royce and Bentley luxury cars are being exported to Russia in defiance of trade sanctions, Sky News reports.

These sanctions, imposed on Russia following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, ban the export of cars to the country. However, cars can still be exported to countries bordering it, including Azerbaijan, from where they’re reportedly being sold into Russia.

The claim is based on an analysis of HMRC trade data. This shows that last year, the UK enjoyed a huge increase in the export of cars to Azerbaijan – up almost 2000% compared with the five-year period preceding the war to £273 million. Each of the vehicles was worth more than £100,000. Analysis of UN trade data then revealed an unprecedented increase in car exports from Azerbaijan to Russia.

UK car exports to Azerbaijan have continued with, last January, £43m worth being sent to the country, making it the UK’s 12th biggest foreign market by value for cars. 

Sky News also found data suggesting sharp rises in UK car exports to Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan – each also a former member state of the Soviet Union.

Autocar asked industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) if it could explain Azerbaijan’s sudden appetite for UK-made luxury cars. It said: “UK vehicle exports to Azerbaijan have increased due to a number of factors, not least a flourishing economy.”

This argument is somewhat undermined, however, by Azerbaijan’s GDP per capita not having increased for the past decade. It’s currently ranked 84th in the world, while the UK is ranked 27th.

While the HMRC and UN trade figures alone don’t prove that British cars are being exported from Azerbaijan to Russia, Sky News sources have told it that Russians prefer to use this neighbouring state as a route for them.

Autocar has discovered that car brokers in Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, are advertising British luxury cars. One claimed it has partnerships all over the world and could supply new Rolls-Royces and Bentleys from the EU. 

Bentley Flying spur bonnet badge with Rolls-Royce Phantom in background

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