Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent much time and many rubles trying to turn around his nation’s struggling automakers, particularly AvtoVAZ, the makers of the infamous Lada brand. Putin is, after all, a deep believer in the national importance of automaking… which is why he drives a Lada himself. But Putin is also shrewd enough to know that automotive patriotism can have some nasty side effects, which is why his Lada has had its engine discretely swapped for an Opel mill. But apparently Putin hasn’t learned to completely insulate himself from the embarrassment that the Russian auto industry appears to manufacture with at least as much efficiency as it manufactures cars. At the launch of something called the Lada Granta, Putin’s struggles to even start the car were caught on video and posted at Jalopnik. The Moscow Times makes no reference to the humiliating episode, but mentions that Putin hinted darkly to the assembled journalists that the Granta’s trunk could fit “easily take two sacks of potatoes.” If you know what he means… and trust me, anyone who’s been to Tolyatti before does.
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