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11 Mar, 2008 00:57

Make or break for Russian truck giant Kamaz

Russian truckmaker Kamaz has signed a joint venture with the U.S. auto parts giant Federal-Mogul to upgrade its engines – regarded as a weak spot for Russian manufacturers. The design bureau charged with giving Kamaz an image makeover believes

Despite having only a dozen workers, AstraRossa’s design portfolio reads like a who’s who of Russian manufacturing – from planemaker Sukhoi to Gaz, Avtovaz and even the Russian Army.

Now the design bureau’s taken on perhaps its biggest challenge so far – Russia’s largest truckmaker Kamaz. The company must transform what it calls Kamaz’s «70s» look while keeping the ruggedness which has won it seven Paris Dakar rallies.

AstraRossa’s CEO Sergey Karpov says a chief failing of his counterparts at Kamaz is their lack of brand awareness – a common failing in Russian corporations.
He claims Kamaz is running out of time to catch up with its main competitors Scania and Volvo.  The latter began work on a huge truck plant in Kaluga last October.
“We tell them: you invest hundred of millions of dollars in the inside of the car, but not several millions in the exterior , why not? Within a year and a half they’ll realize suddenly it was very important,” Karpov said.
Meanwhile, the stakes are high. If Kamaz fails to raise its game, experts say the company will slowly die as it cannot compete on price with the new truckmakers from China.