Blog: Simon WarburtonRussia moving in right direction?

Simon Warburton | 15 March 2016

Hotel Ukraina in Moscow even has Rolls-Royce showroom

Hotel Ukraina in Moscow even has Rolls-Royce showroom

Arriving in Moscow this week for the Russian Automotive Forum via a 100% full Lufthansa flight from Munich - for all its troubles this country is still clearly a big draw - I needed to find who was showing the quarter finals of the English FA Cup football.

My billet - the extraordinary Hotel Ukraina replete with Rolls-Royce showroom - now in the hands of Radisson but still looking every inch its image of a Cold War spooks haunt - wasn't showing it so the concierge gave me some directions to a local cafe.

Moscow at night is very dark - there aren't many lights it seems to me and after reassuring me the capital is safe - ''this isn't Brooklyn' she said - I pitched myself into the gloom with a hotel map.

Needless to say within around five minutes I was hopelessly lost, with only the Russian Parliament, the White House as they call it here, receding rapidly in the darkness.

So as I passed the Russian equivalent of a corner shop, I stuck my head in and asked if anyone spoke English. No-one did, but after a lot of pointing at my map, they understood where I needed to go. By this time, a little committee had gathered, intent on solving the direction issue.

Eventually, the shop owner said the English word she did know. 'Go, Go,' so I made to leave. But instead of me just walking away, she'd put on her coat and motioned to follow her - she was going to be a guide.

Picking up the rubbish outside and lighting a cigarette in one practiced movement, my new Moscow chaperone set off at a huge rate of knots into the blackness ahead. I could only just keep up with her, sparks flying off her cigarette.

She suddenly veered right and took me through a forest of tower blocks, going further and further off the beaten track, so much so, I'd given up any hope of finding my way back.

Needless to say she deposited me in the right place, while a further Russian the next day, guided me on the Metro. It just shows even in the teeth of an economic storm, Russians can demonstrate great consideration.

Addendum: The talk of the Russian Automotive Forum today was naturally who Bo Andersson's successor would be. There was speculation the job would go to a Russian, but it turns out to be Dacia CEO, Nicolas Maure, whose daunting in-tray will be full to the brim of this most challenging of markets.

But there remains great opportunity as GAZ CEO, Vadim Sorokin told me today. The light truck and bus manufacturer is in talks with Iran to start a manufacturing facility following the ending of sanctions.

And Russian companies just happen to hold the trump card of being extremely competitive, due to the weakness of the rouble. One door closes and another opens for Russia.

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