Turkish Embargo on Vehicle Exports to Israel Proves Ineffective

By Aryeh Stern

New imported cars are seen at a parking lot in the Eilat port, on June 12. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In early May, the Turkish government imposed an embargo on exports to Israel, including vehicles manufactured in Turkey. Recent figures show, however, that the embargo has not been effective.

According to Transportation Ministry vehicle delivery data released last week, 2,847 private and commercial vehicles manufactured in Turkey were delivered to Israel between May and June 2024, worth approximately NIS 250 million. Most of these were imported before the embargo began, but it appears that imports have not entirely ceased.

Turkish media reported a sharp and unexplained rise in Turkish exports to Greece in May, amounting to $150 million. The assessment in Turkey is that this increase stems from a trade channel circumventing the embargo, rerouting goods from Turkey to Greece and then to Israel. This includes motor vehicles. The Turkish investigation revealed that goods destined for Israel were being exported to other countries with documents indicating a third country as the final destination, from where they were re-exported with new documents.

Central Bureau of Statistics figures for May showed a sharp decline in vehicle and vehicle parts imports from Turkey, dropping to $14.2 million from $40.2 million in May 2023. However, it is estimated that some of the missing imports will appear in the June figures or were diverted through other countries, with bills of lading reflecting those countries as the origin.

The local vehicle market in Israel seems indifferent to geopolitical developments, including the embargo. Vehicle delivery figures indicate that in the first half of this year, deliveries of vehicles manufactured in China were 16.8% higher than in the same period in 2023. Chinese-made vehicles accounted for 22.3% of all vehicle deliveries in Israel, the highest proportion for any Western country. In comparison, the market share of Chinese vehicles in the European Union was less than 4.5% from January to May.

In the electric vehicle segment, Chinese brands accounted for 65% of all deliveries in Israel in the first half of the year, the highest proportion among developed countries. Recent figures showed that sales of some Chinese brands in Israel were tens and even hundreds of percentage points higher than in all European Union countries combined.

A total of 155,000 new vehicles were delivered in Israel in the first half of this year, 11% fewer than in the same period last year. However, in June, 26,000 vehicles were delivered, 5% more than in June last year. It is estimated that more than 4,000 of these deliveries were “self-registered” vehicles, which importers had to register in their own names after failing to sell them within a year of manufacture, plus a three-month extension due to the war. These are record numbers for self-registration, leading to a substantial increase in the supply of “zero kilometer” vehicles — vehicles with a previous owner (the importer) that have not been driven.

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