Toyota ends production at eastern Russia plant amid weak economy

TOKYO, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp said on Tuesday that it had stopped making vehicles under a joint venture at an assembly plant in Vladivostok, eastern Russia, as a weak Russian economy weighs on the country’s once-booming auto industry.

The joint venture with Japanese trading firm Mitsui & Co and Russian automaker Sollers had been assembling Toyota’s Land Cruiser Prado sport-utility vehicle but production was discontinued in late June, a Toyota spokeswoman said.

Toyota now exports about 1,030 Prados per month to Russia - about the same number previously assembled at the Vladivostok plant - from its plant in Tahara, Japan, she said.

Global automakers have been struggling to maintain sales in the once-promising Russian market. Vehicle sales have halved from their peaks in 2012-2013 as lower oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis fuel an economic crisis.

General Motors Co said in March it would shut its St. Petersburg plant by mid-2015 to cope with a prolonged sales slump.

Toyota, however, remains bullish, saying it has no plans to pull out of the country. It said its plan to double vehicle output to 100,000 units per year at its now sole Russian plant in St. Petersburg by the end of 2015 was still on track.

“There will be waves in the (Russian) market but we as Toyota want to increase sales, not shrink,” the spokeswoman said. (Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)