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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hummer Talk Flies as Car Show Opens

MTAvtoVAZ's newest Lada — a concept race car called the Revolution — boasts a hammer and sickle logo on each of its hub caps.
To get a glimpse of what has been happening at Russia's largest car maker AvtoVAZ over the past year, its chairman Vladimir Kadannikov said Monday that all one needs to do is look at the company's stand at the annual motor show in Moscow.

That may go for the whole 6th annual International Russian Motor Show, which kicked off Monday at the Expocenter near the White House on Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya. The exhibition had some new to show, but as usual, a lot that is not so new.

Tolyatti-based AvtoVAZ, the country's No. 1 carmaker that has long been renowned for producing the infamous Lada, is displaying the latest addition to its Lada line: a concept race car that sports a hammer and sickle logo on each of its four hub caps, christened, tongue-in-cheek, the Revolution.

Alongside the Revolution were presented models, like the budget-priced Kalina line, that have long been on the drawing board. The Kalina hatchbacks, sedans and wagons are set to be produced next year.

But the automaker's souped-up Oka2 micro car and its as yet unnamed 2170 sedan had yet to be seen outside the design rooms and attracted a crowd.

Inside the capacious showroom, AvtoVAZ's stand was sandwiched between those for world No. 1 carmaker General Motors and assembler Avtotor, which puts together cars for BMW and KIA at its plant in Kaliningrad.

Such placement seemed less than coincidental. AvtoVAZ has a joint venture with GM, through which the companies jointly produce the Chevrolet-Niva sports utility vehicle, which was on display at GM's stand.

AvtoVAZ's Kadannikov said a final decision on a possible second joint venture with GM, this time to produce the Opel Astra, also in Tolyatti, would be made in October.

Avtotor also has partnership with GM in its sights.

An Avtotor spokesman said the two companies would sign an agreement Wednesday under which Avtotor will assemble GM's Hummer-2 at its Kaliningrad plant, bringing the civilian version of the U.S. Army's monster all-road vehicle to Russian soil.

GM would not confirm the plan, though Interfax quoted a source close to the negotiations as saying the deal would go through.

Domestic production of the Hummer is unlikely to create as many waves as GM's highly vaunted Chevy-Niva project launched last fall with AvtoVAZ, which entailed the construction of a plant in Tolyatti to assemble a car made from Russian parts.

The GM-AvtoVAZ project costs $332 million and is the largest ever foreign investment into the car industry.

The joint venture plans to start exporting Chevy-Nivas to Europe next spring, John Mylonas, the company's general director,was quoted by Prime-Tass as saying Monday.

The opening of Ford's plant in Vsevolozhsk near St. Petersburg also caused quite a stir last summer when it became the first wholly foreign-owned car factory in the country.

The Hummer is likely to be assembled much the same way Avtotor assembles South Korea's KIA and Germany's BMW: Car component kits are sent from abroad and put together with minimal or no use of Russian-made parts.

Last year far fewer companies were represented at the exhibition. Most foreign carmakers did not attend because most update their model lines once every two years. Last year was an off-year.

Speaking Monday at the motor show, Volkswagen executive Ronny Mueller told reporters that his company is considering the possibility of building a production facility in Russia. He gave no other details.

This year's auto show is the largest yet, covering 50,000 square meters of the Expocenter. More than 800 carmakers, truckmakers, motorcycle makers and component makers from 31 countries were present, displaying their products.

The show is open to the public and runs through Aug. 31. Admission costs 150 rubles ($5).