By on June 3, 2010

Designing a product for local tastes is a tricky affair. Just getting the name right is a hassle. Everyone remember the Toyota MR2? Not the French. They remember the Toyota MR. Why? Because “MR2” in French would have sounded like “Em-Ar-Deux” (“Deux” being French for “two”). And “Em-Ar-Deux” sounded very close to “merde” which is French for…..let’s not go into that. So, if getting the name right is a chore, you must do your car research with care  if you want to pander to local needs. I mean, get that wrong and you could end up in deep Em-Ar-Deux. But Volkswagen reckons they’ve found what the Russians want …

The Moscow Times reports that Volkswagen is building a car designed for the Russian market. When they say “design for the Russian market”, they mean it. Or so they say. The car will be based on the Volkswagen Group PQ45 platform (VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Audi A1, etc) and built in their Russian Kaluga factory. The car will be priced at 399,000 Russian Rubles (about $12,500).

Actually, the Moscow Times has been had. Or they have been overcome by national pride. That through and through Russian car is a Polo. Volkswagen said yesterday in a presser released in Germany that they launched on Russia a Polo “developed specially for the Russian market, bearing in mind its specific climate and street conditions.”

What makes this car particularly “Russian” is the standard feature of a higher than normal ground clearance. The reason for this is that the car can better negotiate Russia’s potholed roads, says the Russian trade rag Za Rulyom.

Volkswagen’s Russian Director, Dietmar Korzekwa, is confident this vehicle will be such a big hit on the Russian roads (presumably because of the potholes), that they plan to sell 10,000 of these vehicles in 2010 and 30,000 in 2011.

There is more that turns this Polo into a polor bear that thrives under adverse conditions. Volkswagen can hardly say that they built it for the crappy roads and for the mediocre gasoline found in Russia. To avoid another German-Russian conflict, the press release turns into a masterpiece of diplomacy:

“The specific demands of Russian drivers and the climate and street conditions in Russia have both been carefully taken into account during the new Saloon’s development: long-term tests were conducted in different climate zones, and the street conditions in the most variegated regions in Russia were examined. The available petrol qualities were tested repeatedly as well. Thus the vehicle has been equipped with an up-to-date and reliable engine that is ideally suited to those operating conditions prevailing in Russia, a galvanised, non-corrosive body and a wheel suspension geared to bad roads. Particularly robust paints were used for the car’s paint job, and the chrome parts are also highly resistant to aggressive agents.”

I guess they didn’t mean KGB agents.

What will also help is that the car qualifies for Russia’s cash-for-clunkers program, whereby you can apply for a subsidized loan for cars costing less than 600,000 rubles.

Maybe Volkswagen can do a car designed for the UK? Culturally, that should be easy. Any upstanding Volkswagen exec or engineer drives in the left lane only.

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16 Comments on “Volkswagen Releases Russian Polor Bear Into The Wild...”

  • avatar

    Russia is not the only place where a car like that would be attractive. Here in Venezuela, at that price it would sell. But being a VW, I guess they would sell it at three times that and market it as a “luxury” vehicle. Like the previous Polo (which flopped in both shapes)

    I highly doubt it was designed specifically for Russia, but for 3rd world markets (emerging for those sensitive) and adapted (suspension, paint, engine calibration, etc…) to local conditions.

  • avatar

    Could Russia’s roads be worse than the roads here in the North East US?

    Potholes and salt are found here, in winter, as far as the eye can see.


  • avatar

    So that last sentence has me puzzling a bit. It would be the equivalent of driving only in the right lane here. What is the inference?

    • 0 avatar

      As much as I hate explaining puns:

      Contrary to popular belief, most of Europe drives on the same side as America. In Germany, speed-addicted drivers hog the left (passing) lane. Hence, they should have no cultural aversion to driving in the UK.

      Get it?


      Ok. Never mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      To those not in the know. Herr Schmitt (whom I report to), has licence to re-jig my articles as he sees fit. And in the original article, I wrote a much better pun. But you try telling him that! ;O)

      While I’m here, Herr Schmitt, are you going to write any more of your autobiography? If you’ve run out of stories, just make something up and don’t tell us.

  • avatar

    From the language dept: that Toyota MR2 in French: the letter “r” is pronounced to rhyme with “air”, and the correct pronunciation of “merde” would have the air sound in the middle — mairde (rhymes with the name, Baird, though of course with the French “r”.

    This may seem trivial, but if you ever go to France, and you want to use this versatile epithet, and you pronounce it “mard” to rhyme with “hard” the French will either look at you quizzically, or they will just laugh.

    Studebaker did a great job of making trucks for the Soviet Union back during the lend lease program. The name became a synonym of excellence among the GIs at the base in Poltava, as well as the local Soviets. I hope the VW Polor Bears do as well.

  • avatar

    Actually I think the MR-2 sounds more like “mere duf”, a slang term, meaning “mere du famille”, or mother of the family, but more to the point sounding a lot like “egg shitter”, and serving as a snide commentary on mothers’ with many children.

    I’m not sure where all of the kids would fit in a mid engined commuter…

  • avatar


    Lets please have the better pun that Cammy wrote, even if just in the comments section!

    • 0 avatar

      By popular demand:

      “Maybe Volkswagen can do a car designed for the UK? Maybe a car which, if you go over the speed limit, informs the local police of your misdemeanour? Saves on all those pesky speed cameras. They could call the feature “COnStar”? I’ll be here all week……unfortunately.”

  • avatar

    polOr? Really? I can’t find a spelling for polOr. Doesn’t seem to be a “proper english” spelling either. :-)

    And, VW execs aren’t the only ones that “drive in the left lane only”. Texans with SPS also spend the maximum amount of time in the left lane, driving their ‘merikan made 3/4 ton diesel crew cabs with all of the optional bling.


  • avatar

    I kinda like Cammy’s pun more. Sorry Bertel.

    By the way Bertel, who is in your avatar?

  • avatar

    French from Québec speaking here, the -em er deux- is the right way to say it in french. However, is you slightly bend it, it can sound like -merdeux-. Now that word means built of shit or full of shit. And yes they where called MR2 here, but we also have the la crosse(single guy sex), the aspire (inhale) and other funny name that show us here that none of us is on the board of director of these company…not even one car built here in Québec anymore (except for small company)…oh well…

  • avatar

    Judging by some of the photos I’ve seen on “That Will Buff Out” and similar sites, the ability for a vehicle to float if it falls through the ice would be a worthwhile adaptation to Russian driving conditions.

    Re driving on the left, I haven’t done it yet, but for my money, driving on the unfamiliar side of the road on two-lane country roads wouldn’t be the big trick; the big trick would be to drive on the left side of the left roadway of a four-lane divided freeway with interchanges.

  • avatar

    Actually, Pete, divided highways with interchanges aren’t that hard. The real test in the UK is the traffic circles, or roundabouts as they call them. Cammy can tell you all about them.

    The greatest proponent of traffic circles was, unfortunately, an American, whose name I can’t recall. He thought traffic flows best when it doesn’t stop, and railed against traffic lights. His two biggest failings are that the guy didn’t give a rat’s patoot about pedestrians, and he convinced the Italians to adopt the circles without taking into account how Italians drive.

    What’s galling is the guy never learned to drive or had a license. He was wealthy and had a chauffeur. It’s kind of like those permanent singles who like to tell parents how to raise their children.

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