By on May 12, 2011

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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12 Comments on “Russia’s AvtoVAZ Investment Pays Off… With A Whole Lada Embarassment...”

  • avatar

    Imagine the US President having the same experience with a new car during a photo op, and how viral such video would be.

    Putin’s gotta be steamed.

    • 0 avatar

      All this article is for nothing.
      Read Bimmer’s comments below. I heard too, Putin said that. He was pressing accelerator and this is why car didn’t start.

      Perception is reality, right?

  • avatar


    I am sorry, but all your assumptions in the beginning of the article are wrong.
    Mr. Poo Tin does not give about turning the Lada around. From the USSR collapse VAZ has been a money laundering/taxpayer money black hole affair, profiting a few parasites in its management and in the Russian govt. It also serves as an excuse to raise import tariffs on proper cars, thus bereiving Russians of any chance to drive a decent motor costing reasonable money.

    Nor Mr. Poo Tin likes/cares about “his” Lada, which is a 100% publicity stint for the masses.

  • avatar

    Having been through new model launches myself a few times, I must say that his PR people are at fault more than anyone else. It is not outside of norm to have multiple problems during new model launch, with engines failing to start, clamps not installed, and bolts not threaded in all the way. Too me, it would be more embarrassing if model that they were building for the last 40 years did the same thing. With new product it is no big deal. Happens to everyone…..

  • avatar

    clicking on Ed’s link for Tolyatti is totally worth it, if only to remember how much I loved reading jursib’s posts. What ever happened to that guy? His insight and comments were pure internet gold.

  • avatar

    “Two sacks of potatoes” is the standard Russian idiom for measuring car capabilities. Those are 160 lb sacks, by the way.

  • avatar

    I drove a Lada Zhiguli 06 when I lived in Moscow from 1992 to 1997. The one in the video looks a lot better than the re-badged Fiat sedan they called a Lada back then. A one-year-old Lada was worth more than a new one as the owner had a year to fix everything that was screwed up by the factory.

  • avatar

    You know, I expected worse. The door to fall off, a rod to be thrown through the hood, smoke, fire—something. This was more or less like my Niva owning experience was.

    It’s nice to know that the communist experience is still built in, and that the press demo car for the erstwhile strongman of Russia sucks just as bad as what the proles can buy.

  • avatar

    This is amusing, but its honestly what I was expecting from a car that cost 220k rubles(sub-$8k).

    What is more interesting is that this unfortunate event is pretty representative of Russia’s automotive industry. AvtoVAZ has big plans, with Putin’s support, and a nice bailout, they intend on selling over than twice as many cars as they do now in around 8-9 years. Though not off to a good start, this Granta will serve as the foundation for Russia’s taking back of their former industrial glory.

    In the same vein, the global automotive industry has become increasingly nationalist. Putin in a Granta, Obama in a Volt, automotive production is becoming a state affair. Build in Russia if you intend on selling in Russia, Brazil has a similar demand as does many parts of the world, though not nearly with as much ferocious tenacity as Russia. Renault-Nissan seem to be good at this (quarter owner of AvtoVAZ).

    The lesson here is that car manufactures have to insulate themselves from geopolitical demands of local politicians, not any easy task as it once was as BRICs and the like mean more countries and more politics to juggle. So smaller local factories producing cars for the local market; export factories, not cars.

  • avatar

    Embarrassing? Ed should have heard what Putin said. Putin didn’t realize that he didn’t have to slightly push the accelerator when starting a car, like in the old cars. So electronic ignition interlock did not let him start the car at first.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    Just a small point, Vladimir Putin isn’t the President of Russia. The President of Russia is Dmitry Medvedev. Putin is Prime Minister.

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