How is the famous Soviet car company LADA now?

However, this brand is facing increasingly difficult times in the context of technology lagging behind Asian automakers as well as output to the market.

“Legend” LADA

LADA belongs to AvtoVAZ, Russia’s leading car manufacturer, established in 1966 through a partnership with Fiat (Italy) and the USSR Ministry of Foreign Trade.

The LADA car was first introduced in 1970, when it was a modified version of the Fiat 124 exclusively for the Eastern European market, also known as the VAZ-2101 Zhiguli. By 1973, LADA had become a popular brand in the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe as well as some countries.

Modifications give LADA a stronger and heavier steel body. Some components also strengthen the car to operate reliably on bumpy roads in Russia and help it through the harsh winter.

Zhiguli/LADA was initially selected as the export brand. Notably, the export of this model has become very popular in Europe. In the UK alone, more than 300,000 2101s have been exported. A lot of jokes about cheap LADA “sloppy” began to appear. But the image of LADA with Russians is completely different.

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Fiat 124, prototype of the VAZ-2101/LADA 2101 series. (Photo: Kompressed)

“Product of the People”

In the Soviet Union, the brand was famous, it was cheap, it was easy to repair, and that was everything one would expect from a car.

With these characteristics, the VAZ-2101 series, like the VW Beetle or Citroën 2CV, is dubbed the “people’s car”.

Many Russians love cars from the Soviet era or even more recently, because the cars have a distinct nostalgic feel, some of which make them feel nostalgic.

The first real LADA, not based on another vehicle, was the LADA Niva, or VAZ-2121. Niva first appeared in 1977, and by the end of 2020, it is estimated that more than 650,000 of these cars are still on Russian roads. The prototype of this series was the experimental version Izh-14, with some features from the VAZ-2101 and Fiat 124, which were produced earlier in series.

The Niva itself is still in production, with new versions coming. Niva is considered a special small off-road vehicle, durable and sure.

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Niva is considered a small off-road vehicle quite special, fun and comprehensive. (Photo: Motor 1)

Difficult period

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, LADA survived, although not many Soviet Russia products did. The company introduced various models at that time, such as LADA 110, 2112 hatchback and VAZ-2120 Nadezhda minivan, based on Niva.

However, this is still a difficult time for many companies in Russia. In 1993, AutoVAZ was restructured into a joint stock company. The company faced many problems such as employee salary debt, production delays, car theft at the factory, involvement in criminal organizations. As of 1996, the airline owed $2.4 billion in taxes. The Russian government now has to step in to support.

In 2008, Renault bought a 25% stake in the company, as LADA continued to make cars like the Vesta. In the context of the economic downturn, AvtoVAZ is almost bankrupt if the government does not offer a subsidy package worth $ 600 million.

Renault gradually raised its stake in AvtoVAZ and in 2016, Renault invested 1.33 billion USD here, officially becoming the parent company of AvtoVAZ, having control of the LADA brand.

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LADA is popular both at home and abroad. (Photo: Sputnik, Moscow Agency)

Brand “undefeated”?

In January 2021, Renault announced it would integrate the LADA name and its sister brand Dacia into a Lada-Dacia business unit. It’s not yet clear what this means, but the days of fully autonomous LADA are probably now history.

However, a new Niva design is expected to go on sale in 2024, and as part of the Renault group, the brand will be secured and have a secure financial backing. With the backing of Renault, LADA can become a major international brand.

“LADA is part of Russia, built to withstand the harshest weather and road conditions, always strong, tough and ready to face difficulties. Every Russian family has a story with LADA starting with the iconic VAZ-2101 and the Niva, the first full-body SUV in automotive history, the core of the most powerful and popular cars from so far”, Renault brand statement.

In 2021, after two years of losses, Renault is profitable again from the joint venture in Russia. About 8% of its profits come from the Russian market.

The Russian car market will decline by 9.5% in 2020 due to the epidemic and social distancing measures. But LADA is still the brand with the largest market share (up 0.9%), despite a 5.2% drop in sales.

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The LADA production company announced a partial shutdown of operations amid the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine. (Artwork: Sputnik)

When Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began, the LADA production company announced a partial shutdown of operations because many of Russia’s borders were being tightly controlled.

On these lines, there are a number of workshops that supply auto parts and components for auto factories in Russia.

Volkswagen also halted production for a few days at its factory in Russia after the supply of some parts and components from Ukraine was delayed.

Meanwhile, a number of other companies in the supporting industry are also worried about the intense war. Nokian, a Finnish tire manufacturer with a factory in Russia, is shifting production of some product lines to Finland and the US in response to sanctions.

On March 16, AvtoVAZ partially resumed operations, after halting production due to supply chain disruptions.

Carmaker LADA has periodically halted production at its Togliatti and Izhevsk plants this month due to a shortage in the supply of electronic components. Now they continue to produce two models, Granta and Niva, from March 16 to March 18. The company said that there will be another announcement about the working schedule in the period after March 18.

AvtoVAZ also plans to extend the company’s holiday to stock more electronic components and ensure more stable operations. The holiday lasts from April 4 to 24, instead of the original plan from July 25 to August 14.

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