Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: 30 Year Old Lada Remains Russia's Darling

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

After Yemen last weekend, it is now Official Sales Data Week, where we explore a country that has the great idea to give us access to actual sales data, and therefore saves me from looking on YouTube for hours on end in the hope of figuring out a rough sales ranking…

This week we are going to freezing Russia to find out whether Lada models still have the stranglehold over the market they enjoyed in the time of the USSR.

Now if Russian cars scare you (yes, they do that to some people, especially those who saw the Moscow car chase in The Bourne Supremacy) but you are keen to find out which cars are the best sellers in 153 other countries around the planet, simply go here. It’s my blog and comrade, I swear you will love it.

The GFC slammed the Russian car market, which went from a record 2,704,040 sales in 2008 to only 1,465,742 in 2009. That’s a 46 percent drop. Ouch. So (one year late), a cash-for-clunkers program was set in place and (one year late), it worked! The market was up 30 percent in 2010 at 1,910, 573 registrations.

And (for you in the front row that have paid attention) the answer is yes, Lada models, 20 years after the end of the Communist era and the opening of the market to competition, still rule. In fact, the cash-for-clunkers scheme helped Lada more than most other brands, given their range is composed solely of old (and cheap) models. Lada held 24 percent of the Russian market in 2009, climbing to 28 percent in 2010.

The best selling car in Russia last year was the 1979 Lada 2105/2107. Yes. That’s right. I’m guessing most of you that know about this model thought its production had stopped ages ago. I did. So a 30 year-old model derived from the 1966 Fiat 124 more than doubled its sales in 2010 at 136,006 units and grabbed 7.1 percent of the Russian market…

The number 2 model was also a Lada, the Priora. The Priora was launched in 2007 and was the best selling car in Russia in 2009. It lost its title last year even though its sales shot up 26 percent at 125,235 units for a 6.6 percent market share. The Priora hardly gets exported outside of Russia so if you don’t live there, chances are you have never seen one in the flesh.

The number 3 model was a… Lada, the Kalina, the smallest Lada in the range. It saw its sales improve by 79 percent last year at 108,989 units. The Kalina was even the number one car in the country in February 2011. This model can say thanks to the cash-for-clunkers program because since its launch in 2004 and before last year it had trouble getting onto the podium of the car sales ranking. Like the Priora, the Kalina doesn’t get out of Russia much, so I’m betting on the fact that you didn’t even know it existed before you read these lines… Right? Right.

Russia Top 10 best selling cars in 2010:

PosModel2010%10/091Lada 2105/2107136,0067.1%102%2Lada Priora125,2356.6%26%3Lada Kalina108,9895.7%79%4Lada Samara101,9585.3%13%5Ford Focus67,0413.5%29%6Renault Logan62,8623.3%17%7Lada 4×444,6352.3%67%8Daewoo Nexia43,9432.3%56%9Chevrolet Niva35,3801.9%44%10Chevrolet Lacetti31,8851.7%9%

The number 4 model last year was a… Lada. Did I tell you Lada ruled?

Now if you live in Europe, Canada and Australia and are an avid car nerd, you should be familiar with the Lada Samara. Originally launched in 1984, it was sold all across the world with varying degrees of success. By 1997 exports stopped for the most part due to stricter emissions regulations. In 2000 the Samara underwent a very light facelift and became the Samara 2, the very car that held the number 4 spot in Russia in 2010. It was number one in 2004-2005 but had to settle with 101,958 sales, only a 13 percent improvement over 2009.

There is one more Lada in the Top 10, the Lada 4×4 which you perhaps know as Lada Niva. This no-frills 4WD launched in 1977 manages a sterling 7th place with sales up 67 percent at 44,635 units.

Right. Now it’s starting to become a bit clearer why Renault’s buying out 25 percent of Lada (or AvtoVAZ as it is known in Russia) was actually a pretty clever move, yes it was.

The best selling foreign model, as it has been 4 of the last 5 years, is the Ford Focus at 67,041 units (+29 percent) followed by the Renault Logan (originally a Dacia model it is sold as a Renault in Russia) with sales up 17 percent.

One more interesting model in the Top 10: the Daewoo Nexia. Daewoo? Just checking that everyone is listening here… Daewoo is dead right? Even in South Korea the brand has been replaced by Chevrolet. Well not exactly. In 1992, the Uzbekistan state owned UzAvtosanoat and GM Daewoo created a joint venture called Uz-DaewooAvto and started producing cars under the name Uz-Daewoo, exporting mainly to Russia. Check here if you don’t believe me. And their best seller is the Uz-Daewoo Nexia, number 8 in Russia last year with sales up 56 percent. The Uz-Daewoo Matiz is number 11 at +31 percent.

So you can brag about how fluent in Russian car sales you are at dinners, at work and at car shows around the planet, I present in exclusivity for you the latest interesting development in the Russian market:

It is the arrival of the Hyundai Solaris (the name of the new generation Hyundai Accent built in Russia for Russians) in the Top 10 for its very first month of sales in February 2011 with 3,406 units changing hands and 2.1 percent share.

Russia Top 10 best selling models in February 2011:

PosModelFeb%Jan1Lada Kalina9,6735.8%22Lada Priora8,9565.4%33Lada 2105/21078,5985.2%14Lada Samara6,3973.9%45Renault Logan5,9393.6%56Ford Focus4,8602.9%97Lada 4×43,9042.4%68Chevrolet Niva3,5662.1%109Hyundai Solaris3,4062.1%–10Nissan Qashqai3,3212.0%12

Now which car site makes you look so smart? If someone brags about how GM, Volkswagen, or Toyota roll up the BRIC markets, you can say: “Interesting. Actually, Lada has a near monopoly on that market, with Hyundai making a nice showing.” Just get ready to administer the Heimlich maneuver when you say that.

If you want to look REALLY smart at the aforementioned venues, then of course you need to say: “Moscow is just as much Russia as Manhattan is America.” Meaning: It is not. The Moscow market looks like a mixture of Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Ladas? Based on the last numbers made public (6 months 2009), in Moscow, a Lada seems to be nye kulturny. The Moscovite best seller was the Ford Focus, ahead of the Chevrolet Lacetti (aka Optra) and Opel Astra…

Moscow Top 5 best selling models over 6 months 2009:

PosModel6m 2009%1Ford Focus7,9465.3%2Chevrolet Lacetti4,1962.8%3Opel Astra3,4622.3%4Mazda33,3902.3%5Mitsubishi Lancer3,2582.2%

That’s it for today! If you want to know all about the best selling models in Russia each year since 1970 simply go here: Russia Historical Data.

For the 2010 Top 25, and monthly rankings since September 2010 simply go here: Russia.

All data sourced on AEB, Moscow data sourced on

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

Join the conversation
4 of 48 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Apr 03, 2011

    Fascinating article! Makes me miss my 74 Fiat 128SL, sort of. It will be interesting to see how Hyundai will do with that fancy new car. I'd also like to know the relative prices of all these vehicles. That 124 clone has to be dirt cheap.

  • DougD DougD on Apr 04, 2011

    I miss Ladas in Canada. Never owned one, drove a few. They were honest transportation, although in some ways they were honestly terrible. Sometimes you don't need a status symbol, or a mobile video game, you just need transportation. Whatever happened to that plan to build the last generation Sebring in Russia? I think that was a Magna joint venture? If they could have brought some of those to market in North America they probably would have sold better than the current Sebring/200.

  • Tailpipe Tommy Ask Tyler Hoover, Jason Cammisa, Joe Raiti, Sreten @ M539 Restorations (he's really spectacular), and oh yeah, that Doug DeMuro cat. For better or worse, automotive journalism has moved to YouTube.
  • Ajla A lot of journos liked to sh*t on the NAG1 but I never had an issue with its performance and the forums don't really show it as a trouble spot by the time it got into these. It probably needed just a touch shorter gearing in base form (I think the Magnum offered that on a tow package and the Charger offered it with a performance package or Daytona trim).
  • Fahrvergnugen NA Miata goes topless as long as roads are dry and heater is running, windscreen in place.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.