After four decades in production, Russia is set to end it’s love affair with the Lada. Once prized by the nation, the car has now come to symbolise the decline of the country’s automobile industry.
State car maker AvtoVAZ will halt production of the last models of the Lada classic series this year, to the great sadness of Lada enthusiasts, such as Dmitry Zhigulin, a student who drives a Lada 2106, he says:
“In fact, what is attractive about this car is its price, especially considering that I bought a used car. It is much cheaper than even a used imported car. It was in perfect condition, and for this money you could never have purchased an imported car in a comparative condition.”
While the box shaped cars may have been ridiculed abroad, many Russians look at it with nostalgia, to a time when Russia took on the world during the Soviet era.
Even if the fashion conscious would not be caught dead in one, others see it as a way to distinguish themselves from the crowd. One such person is Yulia Martynova, who drives a Lada 2101 and is a member of the Lada fan club:
“All imported cars are similar,” she said. “Look at them, all are the same except for some expensive ones, but they are a faceless mass anyway, and I have a remarkable car, which is always noticeable in a parking lot or in traffic.”
AvtoVAZ says that almost 18 million of the classic series had been sold by March this year, but the company has struggled against foreign competition since the end of the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to promote the Lada Granta last year, but to his embarrassment it took several attempts to get it going. The decline of the motor industry is even more painful as it is anticipated Russia will be the biggest car market by the end of the decade.