An Indianapolis manufacturer hopes to land more business in Russia, where a growing middle class and new financing options are fueling the automotive market.
Hoosier Gasket Corp. was recently selected to join a U.S. Commerce Department trade mission to Russia in April. It will be the only Indiana company in the delegation of about a dozen automotive firms.
“The purpose of this mission is to broaden and deepen ties that already exist,” said Oleg Gostomelsky, vice president of east European business development for Hoosier Gasket.
Hoosier Gasket already supplies the Gorky Automotive Plant, or GAZ, one of the two largest carmakers in Russia, as well as a joint venture between Columbus-based Cummins Inc. and Kama Automobile Plant, or KAMAZ, a major heavy-truck manufacturer in Russia.
That existing business put Hoosier Gasket on the radar of the Commerce Department’s automotive-sector team in Washington, D.C., said Mark Cooper, director of the agency’s office in Indiana.
“They’re a good client of our office. We’ve known them for years,” Cooper said.
Cooper noted that the office exists to help Indiana companies develop foreign business, and he’s recruiting aerospace firms for a trip to Turkey. "We'd love to do this for all kinds of companies," he said.
Though China draws a lot of attention as an emerging economy, automakers and suppliers are flocking to Russia, as well, Gostomelsky said. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study ranked the Russian auto market as the world’s fourth-largest, on par with Germany's, he noted.
A major factor in that growth is that in the past six years, banks began making loans for car purchases, Gostomelsky said. Previously, Russian consumers had to pay for cars in cash. It comes as no surprise, then, that the average age of cars on the road in Russia is 10 years.
Hoosier Gasket also sees opportunity in the heavy-duty vehicle market because so much of the country lacks a well-developed road network, Gostomelsky said.
Hoosier Gasket is already making plans to manufacture its products for heavy-duty engines in Russia next year. Currently, the company supplies the parts for assembly kits, which are exported.
The company operates from a 135,000-square-foot facility in Keystone Enterprise Park on the near-east side of the city and has about 135 employees.