New GAZ Group president, Vadim Sorokin, says the automaker is working with Russian energy giant, Gazprom, to develop alternative fuel infrastructure in the country.

GAZ claims it is the leading company in Russia producing vehicles powered by alternative fuels. Since 2006 for example, Liaz buses powered with compressed natural gas (methane) have been produced, while since 2010, Gazelle Business vehicles with engines powered with liquefied natural gas have been manufactured.

Equally, using the base of YaMZ-530 engine production in association with Westport, a manufacturer of automotive gas-fuel systems, production of engines powered with compressed natural gas is being set up.

Addressing delegates at last week’s Russian Automotive Forum in Moscow, organised by Adam Smith Conferences, the new GAZ chief, succeeding former incumbent, Bo Andersson, who moved to head AvtoVAZ, highlighted the importance of CNG and LNG-powered vehicles.

“[With] development of LNG/CNG, we realised this is what our country needs,” said Sorokin. “Russia is a huge country – we have lots and lots of kilometres here so transport expansion will always be higher.

“We work with Gazprom to develop infrastructure and filling stations.”

The new GAZ chief also hailed the recent success of its bus provision at the Sochi Olympics, where it provided 739 vehicles, which carried 42,000 passengers on ‘Olympic’ Golaz and Liaz brands, serving coastal and mountain clusters in weather conditions Sorokin described as challenging.

GAZ – which was also a supplier during Moscow’s Olympic Games in 1980 – says its buses will now be used for suburbs in Moscow and St Petersburg as part of Olympic legacy pledges.

Sorokin noted GAZ had achieved RUB5bn (US$138m) efficiency savings as part of a drive to become 10% more productive, while it was on course at the end of this year to reach a daily production target of 520 vehicles compared to the current 420 units.

The new chief also cited the company’s aim to enter the European market with its buses by 2022 noting: “Now we have products to offer, Europe is quite afraid of us. For us to sell a bus to Europe, that would be 2022.

“GAZ is a strong team of professionals. We have an extremely strong line-up [and] we will not only keep but improve our market share.”

The automaker has 13 plants in eight Russian regions and says it has a 50% CV market and 65% bus segment share.