- This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine
MOSCOW, Nov 23 (Reuters) – After a two-decade hiatus, Russia launched production of the Moskvich car brand on Wednesday at a plant near Moscow abandoned by French automaker Renault, with a new modern Chinese design that hardly resembles the Soviet model. era classic.
While the last Moskvich (“Muscovite”) was a simple sedan or pedestrian hatchback with three trunks, the Moskvich 3 is a muscular crossover petrol hatchback with alloy wheels, LED slit headlights and a large central touchscreen.
In fact, the car looks identical to the Sehol X4 compact crossover made by the Chinese JAC, also known as the JAC JS4.
Sources told Reuters that JAC’s design, engineering and platform were used, with parts supplied from China, and that the vehicles shown at launch displayed numerous JAC decals with part codes.
However, Maxim Klyushkin, the plant’s project manager, refused to confirm that the Chinese company was Moskvich’s partner.
“We have (Russian truck maker) Kamaz as an external partner and we have a long-distance partner that we work with,” he said. “We’re not naming that partner.”
Klyushkin said the car would have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), one of the features Russian Avtovaz has been forced to remove from Lada models due to Western trade sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Renault (RENA.PA) sold its majority stake in Avtovaz to the Russian state in May for reportedly just one ruble, but with a six-year option to buy it back. It sold its factory, now renamed the Moscow Automobile Factory Moskvich, for another ruble.
FALLING CAR SALES
With just 600 vehicles planned for production this year, the new car is unlikely to change the gloomy outlook for the wider industry, whose annual sales could end the year below 1 million for the first time in Russia’s modern history.
The government’s ultimate goal of producing 100,000 Moskvich vehicles per year, some of which will be electric, is well below the industry average for a 200,000-300,000 car factory. Tesla makes 22,000 cars a week at its Shanghai factory.
“The first Moskvich cars will come off the production line in December 2022,” Kamaz (KMAZ.MM) said in a statement.
Western sanctions over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine have not only hindered access to foreign-made components, but also helped drive out foreign manufacturers.
Kamaz and the government have set up new supply chains but have not disclosed details.
“The task for the near future is to establish small node assembly processes with the involvement of local suppliers by the end of 2023,” Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in a statement.
The ministry said launching full production would create jobs for about 40,000 people. The car will go on sale in Russia next month, he added, although pricing has yet to be announced. President Vladimir Putin last week urged automakers to keep prices down.
Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow; Edited by Kevin Liffey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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