20 years - but worth the wait

Classic Russian car brand GAZ has unveiled its first new model in 20 years at the Moscow Motor Show.

It comes on the back of the company's half-year results showing sales of Gaz’s current brand Volga have nose-dived by 23%.

The new model goes under the name 'Siber'. It’s built on a Chrysler Sebring chassis and will retail from next year for around $US 20,000.

Gaz International’s CEO says it will be the first Russian-made car to succeed against foreign brands.

“It will basically allow a domestically produced vehicle to be compete against some of the premium imported competition. It will definitely have an operating cost advantage and for those who are committed to buying a Russian product, it basically be the best local product on the market,” claimed Martin Leach, CEO of GAZ International.

GAZ also announced the first production of British vehicles in Russia. Production of Maxus minivans will be moved completely to Nizhny Novgorod by 2009. Leach talks of the dream combination of British quality and Russian know-how.

In addition, on the rare occasions when drivers need to take their vehicle to a service station,GAZ has the best distribution for commercial vehicles in the country so they can take it to any one of its 160 dealers.

Analysts say the move marks a turning point for foreign car-makers in entrusting the manufacturing process to Russia, not just for reasons of cost, but also forquality of production.

“This is the first British car brand to be made in Russia. The country has become capable of producing cars of the same, and even higher, standard as in the West. BMW says the quality of its Kaliningrad models are higher than in Bavaria,” stated Grigory Koshelev, news editor of What Car Russia magazine.

GAZ is owned by Russia’s richest man Oleg Deripaska. From bankruptcy in 2005 he’s turned Leyland Daf Vans into a profitable manufacturer.