VIENNA – Pilot assembly of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado gets under way at the Sollers-Bussan joint venture in Vladivostok, the administrative center of the Primorsky region in Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District.

Volume output of the Japanese SUV will start in the second half of this month.

Sollers-Bussan, a 50-50 JV between Russian auto maker Sollers and Japanese trading house Mitsui, assembles the Land Cruiser Prado from semi-knocked-down kits sourced from Japan.

The SUV is being assembled in Vladivostok because of Russia’s high duties on completely built-up imports.

“The Prado is a very expensive vehicle burdened with a 30% import duty,” Alain Uyttenhoven, vice president-product management, ToyotaEurope, told WardsAutoin an earlier interview. “So the reason is to be able to penetrate the market with an upper-range type of vehicle.”

He adds, “As many of these Prado vehicles are used in the Asian part of Russia, it makes sense from a logistics point of view to have them assembled in Vladivostok.”

The JV initially plans to assemble about 1,000 units a month. Scheduled project capacity is 25,000 vehicles annually.

Land Cruiser assembly in Vladivostok is not connected to Toyota’s own Toyota Motor Mfg. Russia plant in St. Petersburg, which assembles Camry models from complete-knocked-down kits.

Toyota is the third Asian brand assembled by Sollers in Vladivostok. All three brands are built in different parts of one plant.

Initially, Sollers created its Vladivostok-based subsidiary Sollers-Dalny Vostok (Sollers-Far East)to assemble Korean Ssangyong SUVs.

Ssangyong assembly in the Vladivostok plant was launched in December 2009. At the time, Sollers was negotiating with other Asian auto makers to add production of their models to the facility.

As a result, the Mazda Sollers Mfg. Rus JV launched assembly of the Mazda CX-5 cross/utility vehiclelast fall in Vladivostok. It adds the new Mazda6 this spring.

Some 32,700 Ssangyong and Mazda vehicles were assembled in Vladivostok last year.

Currently, all Vladivostok-made vehicles are assembled from SKD kits. However, plans call for the switch to CKD assembly and for the use of locally made parts.