Blog: Dave LeggettLada Riva lives!

Dave Leggett | 10 May 2010

I recently watched the 1980s movie of Martin Cruz Smith's book Gorky Park. I have seen it several times before; it's an interesting tale of corruption and police work (and the morality of alternative societies/cultures) that is well told. Some good acting performances. But one of the things that I remember the film for is the main character's automotive transport; a car that summed up Russia's economy and society for decades. Yes, it was the ubiquitous three-box Lada based on the Fiat 124. It was, by Western standards, a rough bit of kit that also sold here as the cut-price Lada Riva.

In Russia, it was all you could get and there was a long waiting list. Exports brought in much-needed foreign currency back in the dark days of Communism. People in Britain who wanted a new car as cheaply as possible would plump for one, but tighter EU emissions and safety rules eventually stopped exports in the 1990s.

And what happened in Russia? Well, for all the effort by AvtoVAZ to update its product offerings, the Zhiguli 2105/2107 is the latest iteration of the classic Zhiguli sedan and it is still in production. There's a ready market in Russia for a cheap car that is low-tech (easily fixed) with low running costs. With the Russian government's scrappage incentives this year, you can pick one up for just $3,500. I'm told it is being phased out due to tighter Russian emissions rules, but it is nevertheless enjoying a last hurrah. Amazing.

If you check out the AvtoVAZ website, they list the indestructible 2105/2107, but don't provide pics on the front page of the catalogue – like they are embarrassed by it or something. Personally, I'd rather have what Arkady Renko drove in Gorky Park than a Samara blandmobile any day of the week. 

EMERGING MARKETS ANALYSIS: How long before Russia's car market bounces back? [includes data]


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