By Olesya Astakhova and Anna Rzhevkina
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia opened a showroom on Friday selling its first post-Soviet luxury limousine under the Aurus brand, a type of car used by President Vladimir Putin at his inauguration last year.
Russia has been trying to reduce its dependence on imported goods and technology, a drive that gathered speed after Moscow was hit by Western sanctions in 2014.
The Russian-built limousine is intended to become the heir to the ZIL sedans that for decades transported Soviet leaders.
Priced at 18 million roubles (£223,071) the Aurus, in its basic configuration, targets customers in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as European and Chinese buyers.
“We expect a similar showroom will appear in China in 2020-2021,” Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said during the opening ceremony in Moscow.
The Russian state has invested over 12.4 billion roubles in the Aurus limousine project since 2013.
The vehicles are produced by a Russian research institute known by the acronym NAMI in partnership with Russian carmaker Sollers <SVAV.MM>.
Friday’s ceremony featured the Aurus Senat sedan.
“The minivan and the SUV Komendant are at the testing stage. I hope to see the latter at the (Moscow International) Automobile Salon in 2020,” Manturov said.
A hybrid or fully electric version of the Aurus is expected to be ready by 2024-2025. There will also be an extended sedan and a shortened limousine.
Aurus CEO Adil Shirinov said potential customers were not only government officials but also businessmen: “We believe the audience will be quite wide.”
Aurus is taking orders, but no retail sales are planned this year, he added.
(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Anna Rzhvekina; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones)