A Russian RUV in Germany - something exotic

Russia’s leading carmaker UAZ is finding its niche in Europe's market for Recreational Utility Vehicles.

Walter Boelke claims he is the first person in Germany to buy a Russian RUV. In the small German village of Langenzenn where Walter bought the car, his choice is considered exotic.

“My family and friends were very surprised that I decided to go for a Russian model. They even asked me if I was a member of the Russian Army,” joked Walter Boelke, client, Langenzenn, Germany.

What makes the Russian model attractive for European consumers is firstly the price.

Walter’s choice is not all that unusual, once you look at the price tag.  At about $US 18,500 Russian UAZ is half the price of an average jeep or Land Rover.

Markus Noeske, a representative of SZ VCC GMBH, the importer of the vehicles in Germany, said the model is worth every dollar. He is convinced that while Walter may be the first, he will not be the last German to buy a UAZ.

“To think only about the low price, you will find maybe cheaper vehicles from Malaysia or somewhere else. What is interesting about the Russian market in its development, is how engineers are engineering cars. It is not so far from how cars are built in Germany, for example. Every engineer in Russia knows what is Euro 3 and Euro 2,” explained Markus Noeske, Langenzenn Germany.

Europe is currently using the Euro 4, a more environmentally-friendly standard, while Russia is still barely at number 3.

Catching up with Europe will lift the price of Russian vehicles for domestic consumers and increase production costs for the country's carmakers. But it will also make Russian vehicles more competitive on the international market. Until then, however, Russian manufactures will need the expertise of their European partners.

“Many big Russian factories do not know what the situation is on the export market.  Of course they know foreign cars, they know what is going on inside, but to get their products outside, many companies are not experienced well enough,” adds Markus Noeske.

Key modifications for European sales include changes to the exhaust system, brakes, and seat belts.

Since launching the project in 2005, about 160 of the cars have been sold. SZ VCC GMBH hopes to increase the number, with an annual target of 750 in 2008.