Lada may have a questionable reputation with us in the West, its parent company, AutoVAZ (actually spelled as AvtoVAZ), are doing quite well in Mother Russia.
So well, in fact, that the Renault-Nissan alliance has announced it will be drastically increasing its stakes in the company. In 2008 they bought 25% of shares and, as stated now, by 2014 they will have 67%, giving them a majority share and the power to call the shots.
Lada is the biggest brand in the Russian car market, delivering nearly 600,000 units last year. Also, last month prime minister Vladimir Putin cut the ribbon to open a new production line, increasing total capacity to one million Ladas per annum. It would seem they’ve got quite a bit of confidence then.
Despite that, Renault-Nissan must not fully appreciate the current line-up of the brand, let alone the quality of the vehicles, as it has also announced to invest in a sincere modernisation of the Lada product. Smart company that they are, they are starting by pulling the automotive industry’s oldest – and cheapest – trick: rebadging. In July the Lada Largus will be introduced, being a rebadged version of the Dacia Logan MCV. You know, that’s that budget break from Romania.
I’m not sure if that looks any better than the Lada Granta, Kalina, Priora, Samara, Riva and Niva that constitute the current brand portfolio, but at least it’ll be put together a bit better, at least in the eyes of us Westerners. In the future, Renault-Nissan have announced more Lada vehicles will be based on their own French-Japanese technology, so quality soon shouldn’t be an issue anymore. I just hope they don’t make Lada an extension of its Dacia budget brand and instead give it a face of its own. Rough, Russian and drunk, but charming as the piece of no-nonsense engineering that is the Lada Niva.
I hope Renault-Nissan will not decide to stop the Niva’s production (like they have with the Riva). That little cult-thing is a joy to see on the roads, even though it only happens once a year on average.