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Russian Car Manufacturers
October 3, 2007 18:49

Decades ago, Soviet citizens could only dream about a car, regarded as a luxury rather than a means of transportation. The price tag was too high and the waiting list stretched for years.

Here are some notes about the key Russian car manufacturers vying for Russian consumers.


The name of Avtovaz is firstly associated with Lada model, probably the most frequently met Russian car model on the roads. However, Avtovaz is the leading Russian passenger car manufacturer and now produces a wide range of models quite popular in the country (Niva, Oka, Lada).

Avtovaz dates back to 1966, when the construction works on a new car-making plant started. The Soviet Union and Italian Fiat concluded a cooperation agreement on conjoint development of an automobile design and car-making plant. The term of the contract was 8 years.

The first plant Volzhsky was built in Togliatti, modern Samara Region. In April 1970 first six cars VAZ 2101 were produced. By the end of the year the plant had released 350 cars per day, which was some kind of a record. Since then VAZ cars have been repeatedly awarded and received the reputation of the most public cars for the Soviet people.

Lada Kalina

Nowadays Avtovaz maintains its role as the key Russian passanger car manufacturer and cooperates with General Motors and the Renault-Nissan concern. The French-Japanese group plans to set up a joint venture with the Russian Technologies corporation controlling the plant. According to the plan, the foreign producers will own a 67.13 percent and a liability to invest 23 billion roubles in the production. The joint venture will hold 74.5 percent of Avtovaz.

Avtovaz model line: Lada Kalina, Lada Priora, Lada Samara, Chevrolet Niva and others. 

Gaz Group

The Gaz Group is the biggest car manufacturer in Russia.

The company was established in 2005 after the restructuring of RusPromAvto's assets. Soon after its launch in 1929, the Gorkovsky (Gaz) automobile works signed an agreement with the American Ford Motors on technical help and cooperation to produce Ford-A class passenger cars in the Soviet Union. The role of the works in the days of the WWII was huge: over 9 000 self-propelled vehicles, 12 000 tanks, 24 000 mortar launchers, over 30 000 missiles for legendary Katyusha missile launchers.


After the war the works initiated production of a new truck GAZ 51, and then a new passenger car GAZ M 20 Pobeda (Victory) – this model was recognized abroad and became very popular.

Other well-known cars are Volga and Chaika – in 1958 at the international exhibition in Brussels they won Grand Prix. In the 1960s the works renewed its line of trucks.

In 1981, it produced its ten-million automobile.

In the 2000s, it controlled the market of shuttle minibuses, with its Gazelle make, which has had serious problems with safety.

Its medium-quality Siber model had to be put off the production line in a very competitive environment, and later the Nizhny Novgorod plant was forced to give up on its own production and focus on effective assembly of foreign makes.

On December 12, 2012 the plant launched the full-cycle production of Skoda Yeti and promised to launch the assembly of VW Jetta and Skoda Octavia early next year.

GAZ's Nizhny Novgorod plant will also produce 30,000 units of the Chevrolet Aveo per year for GM, starting from 2013.


KAMAZ Open Joint Stock Company was established in 1990 as a descendant of industrial association KAMAZ that had been founded in 1969. KAMAZ Inc. is the largest Russian vehicle manufacturer, which insures transport safety of the country.

KAMAZ Inc. is a large vehicle building company. The united production complex of KAMAZ Inc. consists of 13 large special-purpose plants developing, producing, assembling vehicles and components and also marketing end products. The KAMAZ Group of companies consists of 96 enterprises including NefAZ OJSC (Neftekamsk city) and Avtopritsep-KAMAZ OJSC (Stavropol city). Share of KAMAZ Inc. is 51% in each of these two companies.

The first truck was assembled in February 1976. Since then KAMAZ Inc. has been playing a significant role in the world automobile industry. It is among the top ten manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles and is the eighth in the world on production volumes of diesel engines. Thus, within 29 years there has been assembled over 1,7 million heavy-duty trucks and 2,3 million engines. KAMAZ Inc. manufactures a wide range of heavy-duty dump trucks (more than 30 models and about 400 modifications trucks with a right-side steering wheel), buses, trailers, castings, forgings, tools and many others.

KAMAZ is the major vehicle supplier for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, RAO GAZPROM, LUKOIL, SUEK, TNK.

Automobile plant ZIL

Automobile plant ZIL has many times been renamed, but initially it was called AMO, meaning Automobile Moscow Society. The plant was established in 1916 and was expected to manufacture F 15 trucks under the license of Italian company “FIAT”. However, these plans were not to become implemented due the Revolution and the Civil War. The nationalization of the unfinished works (August, 15, 1918) fixed the expropriation of the property of AMO shareholders. The unfinished enterprise in its essence turned into big workshops where vehicles and other machinery were repaired.

In March of 1924, the plant received a specific governmental project for production of the first soviet trucks. On November, 1, 1924, the first one and a half ton truck was assembled - AII-F-15, and on November, 7 the ten trucks were presented on the parade. This date is considered to be a birthday of the Soviet motor-vehicle construction. In 1925 plant was renamed as the 1st State Automobile Plant (the former AMO). In 1927, Likhachov became the director of the plant and his name is associated with intensive development of the enterprise.

In 1931 the plant was launched again after reconstruction and in October of the same year it was named after Stalin - ZIS. ZIS 101, the first Soviet seven-seater limousine, was assembled at the plant. ZIS 101’s design was based on the natural sample of American passenger car Buick.

After the WWII the plant manufactured mostly new truck models and buses. In 1956 Ivan Alekseevich Likhachov died, and the plant was named after him. After the successful round-Earth flight of Yuri Gagarin, the space industry developed quickly in the Soviet Union. ZIL was forgotten and produced rescue-emergency vehicles (PEU-1) targeted at rescuing and evacuation operations of space devices and cosmonauts.

On September 23, 1992 PA ZIL was privatized as the first one in the industry and the one of the first among the largest enterprises in Russia, and it was transformed into Open Joint Stock Moscow Company "Plant named after I. Lihachov" (AMO ZIL) keeping the trademark "ZIL". Today ZIL manufactures 3 to 8 ton capacity trucks along with vans, limousines and buses


The Yo-mobil is a hybrid car that will be produced by Yo-auto, a Russian high-tech company that is a joint venture between SKD truck maker Yarovit and the Onexim investment group, previously controlled by billionaire Prokhorov, who was the main sponsor of the project.

Producers say it will be able to run both on gasoline and natural gas, with a maximum speed specifically limited for 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), and an estimated fuel economy of 67 miles per gallon (30 kilometers per liter).

Originally scheduled for 2012, production at a plant in St. Petersburg has been delayed till 2015.

Marussia Motors

This brand is more well-known abroad than in Russia. Set up in 2007 it is led by TV celebrity and musician Nikolay Fomenko. Currently, its list features B1 and B2 sports cars, which boast all the bells and whistles, a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds, and a 2.8 Turbo 420 horsepower engine.

In 2010, it acquired a major stake in Virgin Racing F1 team, and renamed it Marussia F1 team in 2012.

In 2013, there were media reports that Marussia Motors was chosen as the contractor to produce a new presidential limo and escort vehicles.

Text by Olga Pletneva (updated by Mikhail Vesely)


Legal advice on Russian legislation




Tags: Russian cars Russian transport Russian business   

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