Dave Leggett | 16 July 2005
The Russian car market is advancing strongly this year (the economy still bouyed by high energy prices) and there are a number of significant projects involving international carmakers that are taking off. Ford is ramping up its Russian Focus production capacity and Toyota has broken ground on a plant in St Petersburg (20,000 Camrys a year by 2007). GM's joint venture with local giant AvtoVAZ has also added the Chevy Viva saloon (based on the last generation Opel Astra) to the venerable Niva SUV.
I was just looking into developments in the Russian auto industry when I came across GM-AvtoVAZ's website. It's always pleasing to come across a corporate website that is decently informative. There is plenty of info and also extracts from published articles from the Russian media, all in English. Definitely a useful site to know about if you are interested in that particular operation (link is below).
I wonder how close GM might want to get to AvtoVAZ ultimately. The AvtoVAZ side would no doubt love to have GM capital coming in to the main company, but to say that GM would be wary is probably an understatement. It used to be said that every third car coming off the line at Togliatti (ironically perhaps, an Italian-sounding place name) just disappeared, unaccounted for offically, taken by the Russian 'mafia'. The confines of the JV operation at least keep things manageable. Mind you, if another OEM starts making overtures to AvtoVAZ (a not exactly inconceivable scenario), GM might have to revise its strategy.
And there is news also, from the website, of an attractive looking dealer incentive for Russian GM-AvtoVAZ dealers: best performing dealers will be going to the next carnival in Rio. I expect there will be a few colourful tales to be told on how some dealers make that particular grade.
Good to see, though, the old Viva model name living on somewhere within the GM empire. Some of us Brits recall the Vauxhall Viva from the 1960s and 1970s. The first generation Viva (it was Opel Kadett in Europe) was also a big seller in Canada apparently. My Yorkshire - a county in northern England - Grandad had one and it seemed pretty cool when I was eight-years old. But it is the second generation 'HB' - with coke bottle waistline - that sticks in my mind. It was the cheap motoring banger of choice for some of my mates in the early 1980s, when there were still quite a few about.
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