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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Automakers Roll Out Hip New Rides

MTMembers of a dance troupe unveiling the new Lada Priora on Wednesday. AvtoVAZ hopes to start producing the car in 2006.
The makers of the clunky Ladas that ply the nation's potholed roads unveiled a new line of modern-looking passenger cars at the 8th Moscow International Motor Show, which opened Wednesday.

AvtoVAZ promised to bring the new full-length, manual transmission Priora sedan into mass production in 2006.

Painted in a glistening chameleon gray, the Priora does not cover any new technological ground -- it is equipped with a similar engine available in current models -- but at least it looks like a normal car.

"I'm pleased to say every car shown here will one day be available to the Russian consumer in mass production," AvtoVAZ chairman Vladimir Kadannikov told a crowd of onlookers.

Tolyatti-based AvtoVAZ, the country's largest carmaker, currently produces a line of curiously shaped sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons, which get their looks from communist-era designs. AvtoVAZ also makes the Chevy Niva in a venture with General Motors.

The sprawling AvtoVAZ stand seemed to attract the most visitors, thanks to the Priora, the popular "No. 10" line and the affordable Kalina series, due to be in stock with dealers by the end of the year.

With a starting sticker price of $7,000 and better fuel efficiency than its predecessors, the Kalina is likely to please domestic consumers who cannot afford cheap foreign makes due to high import tariffs.

The compact family car will boast better safety features, higher emissions standards and a slicker appearance than anything AvtoVAZ has ever produced.

"Its new fuel injection system gives the engine more elasticity," AvtoVAZ engineer Sergei Kharitonov said in an interview.

AvtoVAZ plans to make 30,000 Kalinas next year.

Other Russian carmakers made a less impressive showing. A representative of Izhavto, the Izhevsk-based carmaker specializing in rugged station wagons, had only one new model to show for itself.

The Izh Fabula, in mass production since February, looks like a rip-off Volvo station wagon, but at a price tag under $6,000, buyers will not be expecting Swedish quality.

The country's No. 2 carmaker, Nizhny Novgorod-based GAZ, also had little new to show in the passenger range.

The 185-horsepower GAZ 3106 -- an SUV the company said will go into production in 2006 or 2007 -- was the only new design on display.


Vladimir Filonov / MT

A customized luxury Volga sedan is Gorky Auto Factory's answer to Britain's Bentley.

However, GAZ did wheel out its regular auto show fare of souped-up Volga sedans -- not meant for mass production -- including the hefty Volga Cardi, with the exterior of a Bentley and the inside of a Moscow yellow cab.

While the motor fair is the main showcase for domestic carmakers, it has also drawn manufacturers from Germany, Japan, France, Italy, South Korea, Britain and Sweden.

Classic car aficionados should be pleased with the show's display of oldies in the riverside wing of the exhibition complex. On display are everything from a U.S. Lend-Lease army jeep to a Nazi-era Mercedes.

Another curiosity is a 1973 Nissan President, once coveted by its erstwhile owner, Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.

Well-heeled visitors to the auto fair are welcome to make a bid for it, the current owner said, as he can no longer afford to pay taxes on it.

The motor show runs through Sunday at the Krasnaya Presnya Expocenter. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.