Renault SA is reportedly mulling over the possibility of undergoing extensive restructuring, followed by an initial public offering for its electric vehicle assets. While the company had hinted that splitting itself into separate EV and combustion brands was a possibility in February, it wasn’t taken all that seriously. At the time, numerous automakers had suggested dividing themselves along similar lines.
But Ford Motor Co. announced it would actually be going ahead with the plan in March and Renault appears to be similarly warming to the idea, based on a meeting held last week between upper-level management and analysts. This included CEO Luca de Meo and CFO Thierry Pieton, both of whom allegedly acknowledged the real possibility of a split at the French automaker and the subsequent IPO.
We’ve all seen movies set in the perpetually grey, bitterly cold Soviet Union (later Hollywood films featuring Russia were apparently allowed to show sunlight), but if you lived north of the border a few decades ago, it wasn’t just the weather that looked familiar.
Lada Canada imported Iron Curtain cars for two decades (1979 to 1997), offering rudimentary, pinko automobiles to Canadian cheapskates for very few kopeks. Your author recalls entering the high school library at the dawn of the internet age and slowly booting up the Lada Canada website, where a five-door Samara was advertised for $4,995. Few of these showed up on local roads, as Hyundai offered slightly better no-cost transportation options.
However, there was one Lada vehicle that can truly be considered a classic, and it’s the one everyone remembers best. Sadly, after more than 40 years of production, the virtually unchanged Niva (now known simply as the 4×4) seems destined, like the Berlin Wall, to pass into history.
U.S. light vehicle sales sunk slightly in 2017 after years of increases, and this year’s not looking any different. In Russia, however, it’s the opposite situation. After making like the Germans at Stalingrad for the past three years, the Russian car market is now advancing like a T-34 tank — and it has the country’s most famous car brand to thank for it.
Leading the pack is none other than Lada, a company known for cranking out archaic, seemingly indestructible Iron Curtain cars for decades with only minimal changes. That was then, though, and this is now. Spurred by a rebounding economy, sales of new Lada models helped Renault-owned parent company Avtovaz drastically cut its losses in 2017.
Lada’s top brass can give credit to a very Western product strategy.
We’ve featured a communist-built car before on Rare Rides; it was an old Czech-made Skoda 120, located in Canada. A specialized importer group brought many cars just like the Skoda into Canada in the 1980s, supplying bare bones Soviet Bloc vehicles to frugal Canadians living in Quebec and some other places.
Today’s Rare Ride was never part of LadaCanada, and lived its life abroad until very recently. Made in Russia, sold in Belgium, and imported to America, it’s a Lada Samara.
Since acquiring Mitsubishi in 2016, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has found itself in the midst of Volkswagen and Toyota’s struggle for the title of World’s Largest Automaker.
At the end of 2016, VW was still on top but momentarily ceded ground as Toyota amped up volume in early 2017. Compared to last year, the Germans saw sales fall a half-percent in the first quarter of 2017 as the Japanese companies recorded more stable growth. But CEO extraordinaire Carlos Ghosn believes Renault-Nissan has what it takes to fill the top spot before the end of the summer.
While it would be a privilege to tell you that Ghosn entered a darkened room illuminated by a single spotlight to announce the time for the Alliance to crush its enemies was now, the reality was far more tame. The shareholders meeting was adequately lit and Carlos stated, without malice, that becoming the world’s largest automotive superpower is more of an inevitable accident than an intentional conquest.
Times are still tough in Russia, and your average Moscovite or St. Petersburgian doesn’t want to risk buying a new car — unless it’s a vivid, modern new Lada.
Lada, the much-maligned butt of Western jokes for decades, has reaped the rewards of luring a British ex-Volvo designer into its fold. In a vehicle market that continues to contract like a dying star, Lada’s new models are a pinpoint of light.
The Russian automaker that manufactures Lada vehicles won’t see Carlos Ghosn at its board meetings after this June.
The Renault-Nissan CEO and chairman is expected to be replaced as chairman of AvtoVAZ at the company’s June 23 shareholders meeting, the automaker has stated, with Dr. Serguey Skvortsov taking his place.
Ghosn remains the chairman of Alliance Rostec Auto BV, the holding company that controls AvtoVAZ. Renault-Nissan bought a majority stake in the company, which is a joint venture with Russian Technologies, in 2012.
Toyota is hoping to break the internet with an alluring butt shot of an upcoming Prius variant.
That, a new guy will turn around Lada (again), Buick says you’ll never drive an Avista, the second GM ignition trial begins, and Google’s got its eye out for buses … after the break!
Is Tesla planning a Model S update that squeaks past 300 miles of range?
That, a savior is needed at Lada’s parent company, Nissan wants your future car to be everything, Ford goes all in down under, and pedestrians and cars are meeting frequently … after the break!
Nissan last sold a car branded as a Datsun in 1981, but it’s bring the brand back for emerging markets like Indonesia, India, Russia and South Africa. The low cost brand will be launching in April in Russia with a starting price below RUB400,000 ($12,100) and go on sale there in late summer or early fall. Nissan is hoping that the new/old brand will attract consumers that had been considering used cars.
“The main objective (in Russia) is to be a serious alternative to the used car market – this is where we want to compete,” Jerome Saigot, director of Datsun’s operations in Russia, told Reuters.
When I went to Iceland to abuse some Subarus, I managed to visit a couple of Reykjavik junkyards and poke around a bit. In addition to the weird-to-American-eyes French cars and puzzling quantities of 1990s Chrysler products, I found this VAZ-2121 aka Lada Niva 3-door wedged nose-to-tail with a green Megane.
With the stroke of a few pens putting signatures under a contract in Moscow today, then Renault-Nissan Alliance has become Russia’s largest automaker. The Alliance took control of AVTOVAZ, maker of the market-leading Lada brand. Lada holds 30 percent of Russia’s rapidly growing car market.
Renault-Nissan is buying a majority stake in Russian automaker AvtoVaz. For those not in the Russian Car Appreciation Society, AvtoVaz is the maker of Lada cars.