© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Roly Poly Nevalyashka doll is seen inside a car during a meeting of owners and enthusiasts of Soviet Moskvich cars in Moscow, Russia May 21, 2022. The sign reads: “Made in USSR”. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
By Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow
MOSCOW (Reuters) – After a decade-long hiatus, Russia on Wednesday launched the Moskvich range of cars at a farm near Moscow supplied by the French carmaker. Renault (EPA:), is a new, modern Chinese architecture that resembles the Soviet past.
While the last Moskvich (“Muscovite”) was a basic three-box saloon or a pedestrian hatchback, Moskvich 3 is a strong, fuel-like appearance on alloy wheels, LED headlights and a large central display.
In fact, the car looks similar to the Sehol X4 compact crossover made by China’s JAC, also known as the JAC JS4.
Sources told Reuters that JAC’s design, engineering and platforms are being used, with some parts coming from China, and the vehicles on display at the launch show many JAC decals with codes.
However, Maxim Klyushkin, the project manager, refused to confirm that the Chinese company was Moskvich’s partner.
“We have (Russian carmaker) Kamaz as a foreign partner and we have a distant partner that we are working with,” he said. “We are not naming our friend.”
Klyushkin said the car will have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), one of the features that Russia’s Avtovaz has been forced to remove from Lada models due to Western trade sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Renault sold its majority stake in Avtovaz in May to the Russian government for one ruble, but with a six-year option to buy it back. It sold its factory, now called Moscow Automobile Factory Moskvich, for one ruble.
With only 600 cars expected to be produced this year, the new car will not be able to change the disappointing situation of many companies, whose annual sales may end the year below 1 million for the first time in the modern history of Russia.
The government’s ambitious target of producing 100,000 Moskvich cars a year, some of which will be electric, is well below the industry’s target of 200,000-300,000 vehicles. Tesla (NASDAQ: ) produces 22,000 cars a week at its Shanghai factory.
“The first Moskvich cars will go out in December 2022,” Kamaz said in a statement.
Western sanctions over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine have not only hindered access to foreign-made products but have also helped drive foreign manufacturers away.
Kamaz and the government have set up new chains, but did not say much.
“The work of the future is to establish the means of creating small nodes with the participation of local suppliers by the end of 2023,” Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov said in a statement.
The Ministry said that the establishment of all the projects will provide employment to more than 40,000 people. The car goes on sale in Russia next month, it added, although the price has not been disclosed. President Vladimir Putin last week urged car manufacturers to cut prices.