Seeing Red: Toyota to export U.S.-sourced Venzas to Russia and Ukraine

Toyota's 2013 Venza is a low-volume salvo into Russia's automotive showrooms.

Toyota’s 2013 Venza is a low-volume salvo into Russia’s automotive showrooms.

As our newly minted Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with his Russian counterpart in Berlin, Toyota announced plans to begin shipping U.S.-assembled Venzas to both Russia and the Ukraine. As noted by Toyota, these shipments will build upon Toyota’s all-time export record of more than 124,000 American-built vehicles exported to some 21 global markets in 2012.

Given the former Soviet Union’s long affection for the Fiat-sourced Lada, we’re not sure how the Camry-based Venza would have appeared on Russia’s radar. Offering clean, relatively neutral styling, responsive powertrains and available all-wheel drive, we suspect the Venza can serve credibly both in Russia’s urban areas and suburban fiefdoms.

Assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky, the Toyota operation employs some 6,600 team members and represents a $6 billion investment. The export announcement, which commits to 5,000 units in its first year of sales, is – for Toyota – a drop in the proverbial bucket. In an era of less-than-friendly relations between Russia and the U.S., however, perhaps the marketing of U.S.-built Toyotas will lessen that chill. To paraphrase poet Robert Frost (when was the last time we did that?), good Venzas make good neighbors…