It is the car brand that was the most reluctant to leave the Russian market after the invasion of Ukraine. But at the end of March, the French Renault end up coming to terms with the facts and suspending work at the Moscow factory. Until Monday, it was decided to close the company’s activity in Russia, Renault selling its 68% stake in AvtoVAZ, retaining an option to buy again within six years – information in the press Russian indicate that the assets were purchased by the city council for one ruble.
Renault says the ‘difficult decision’ was the ‘responsible path to our 45,000 employees in Russia’, while its CEO, Luca de Meo, has indicated the intention to keep the door open for the brand to return to this important market. in the future — in 2021, Renault was the fourth brand with the highest sales volume and the third foreign brand (the best-selling emblem was the domestic Lada), behind the South Koreans Kia and Hyundai. In April this year, in line with other brands, Renault recorded an 84% drop in sales (the brand that recorded the biggest drop was Lexus, with 97%, while the Chinese Exeed walked in counter- cycle: it increased 277% in the first three months of the year).
But, for the mayor of Moscow, this seems to be an opportunity to cultivate a certain nostalgia, the mayor proposing that the historic Moskvich be assembled at the factory, preventing the number of unemployed from skyrocketing with the departure of Renault. “We cannot allow thousands of workers to be out of work,” Sergei Sobyanin began by writing in his personal blog, adding that he has decided to “resume the production of passenger cars under the historic Moskvich brand”. And the politician appears to have a clear plan, saying he will “try to keep most of the team working directly at the factory and its contractors”.
Regarding logistics, Sobianine informs that he will have KAMAZ (heavy vehicles) as a technological partner and that, “in a first phase, the production of classic cars with internal combustion engines will be organized”, adding that electric cars will arrive in the future. .
Sergei Sobyanin’s intention was a source of derision on Russian social networks, where Internet users had fun sharing memes play with this return to the past. And, for the vice-president of the National Automobile Union, Anton Shaparin, cited by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Sobyanin’s speech should be more cautious. “Building a new car takes years and years. Engineering studies, tests, certifications”, he lists, considering “the complicated situation”. He adds: “For the production of cars, you need a platform (a base on which different cars of one or even several brands are mounted), spare parts, engines. There is none of that now. The last Moskvich, which rolled off the assembly line in 2002, was basically a 1976 vehicle. And its engine has been in production since 1966. There is no point in reviving this model now: it does not satisfy the needs of the Russians, nor the safety requirements of modern automobiles.
However, for Sergei Sobyanin, everything has a solution and, therefore, he announced that he was already working, together with KAMAZ and the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, “to localize the production of the maximum number of automotive components” in the country . . All this to keep the promise that “in 2022 a new page in the history of Moskvich will open”.
From the factory, located in the workshops of the former AZLK, on Volgogradsky Prospekt, Moscow, the crossings Renault Duster and Kaptur, as well as the Nissan Terrano, but its history dates back to the 1930s, when cars were built there under the Ford umbrella.
After World War II, production began on a compact utility vehicle, dubbed the Moskvich (Muscovite, when translated) in honor of the city which was about to celebrate the 800th anniversary of its founding in 1147. The beginnings were made with the Moskvich-400, which was based on the Opel Kadett K38 platform — the reasons depend on theories that even speak of plans stolen from German factories. The car, the first mass-produced passenger car in and for the USSR, was equipped with a 23 hp engine, monocoque body and independent suspension. In terms of eccentricities, it included windshield wipers, which was unusual.
Almost ten years later, in 1954, an upgrade to the Moskvich, called the 401, brought major improvements to both the gearbox and the engine. And it lent itself to suit different needs, taking the form of a sedan, a convertible and a van.
The most stylish of the range, the 407, arrived in 1958, with details that could be considered prime for the time, namely chrome inserts, a clock, a heating system and even a radio. Under the bonnet, a powerful 45 hp engine allowed a top speed of 115 km/h, which won favor with the Soviets and beyond, having shone at the Brussels Motor Show.
During the period of dissolution of the USSR, the Moskvich brand and emblem were purchased by German Volkswagen, which never produced a model with this name – but if Sergei Sobyanin succeeds in his intentions, there will be a legal battle to fight.