It's Nice, but It's No Lada: Chinese Brands Take Over Russian Car Market

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set many wheels in motion, mainly to do with sanctions and efforts to cut the nation off from the global banking and logistics network. Though the Russian economy hasn’t completely collapsed, significant cracks are showing, leading the country to turn to China for support.

New cars are just one of the ways Chinese companies are jumping into the Russian market. While that’s likely frustrating for the European Union and the United States, it gives car buyers in the country the option to purchase a vehicle with more than the barest of barebones features.

Russian car buyers now see Chinese brands like Geely and Haval instead of the Japanese and European nameplates they’re used to. Automotive News reported that Chinese autos make up almost 40 percent of the market in Russia, a significant improvement from the ten percent share they enjoyed a year ago.

Though they’re better than the cars Russians would have otherwise, many buyers have found that the Chinese brands aren’t on the same level as the vehicles from western automakers. Even so, the propaganda machine is in full swing, as former president Dmitry Medvedev recently took a trip to China and praised the country’s cars as being on par with Mercedes-Benz.

Chinese brands are growing in the Russian auto market, but some domestic companies appear to be holding onto life. Last year, Avtovaz, the company responsible for building Ladas, revived the boxy, old-school Niva Legend with what is promised would be 95 percent domestically-manufactured parts. The company did not, however, give any indication that the funky three-door cars would offer creature comforts or safety equipment beyond a steering wheel and three pedals. 

[Image: Volha-Hanna Kanashyts via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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3 of 15 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Mar 30, 2023

    “…former president Dmitry Medvedev recently took a trip to China and praised the country’s cars as being on par with Mercedes-Benz.”

    is that before or after the Tik Tok integration?

    • Stuki Moi Stuki Moi on Mar 30, 2023

      It's no doubt after integration of quite some amount of Vodka into what's left of his brain.

  • Socrates77 Socrates77 on Mar 31, 2023

    Dmitry Medvedev is the equivalent of tucker Carlson I'm the US. All lies always trying to put lipstick on a pig


  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.