AvtoVAZ (RTS:AVAZ) (Russian: АвтоВАЗ) is a Russian automobile manufacturer, also known as VAZ, Volzhsky Automobilny Zavod (ВАЗ, Во́лжский автомоби́льный заво́д ), and better known to the world as Lada was set up in the late 1960s in collaboration with Fiat. It is 25% owned by French giant Renault.
It produces nearly one million cars a year, including the Kalina, Lada 110 and the Niva off-roader. However, the original Fiat 124-based vehicle - the VAZ-2101 and its derivatives remain the models most associated with its Lada brand.
The VAZ factory is one of the biggest in the world, has over 90 miles (144 km) of production lines and is unique in that most of the components for the cars are made in-house.
The original Lada was a basic car, lacking in most luxuries expected in cars of its time and was patterned after the Fiat 124. Ladas were available in several Western countries during the 1970s and 1980s, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, though trade sanctions banned their export to the United States. Sales to Italy were forbidden by the agreement between the Soviet Government and Fiat, to protect Fiat from cheap imports in its home market. Imports to Spain were also prohibited in Spain because the local Fiat subsidiary, SEAT, built a version of the same car.
The plant was set up as a collaboration between Italy and the Soviet Union and built on the banks of the Volga river in 1966. A new part of town Togliatti, named after the Italian Communist Party leader Palmiro Togliatti, was built around the factory. The Lada was envisaged as a "people's car" like the Citroën 2CV or the VW Beetle.
The lightweight Italian Fiat 124 was adapted into something intended to survive treacherous Russian driving conditions. Among many changes, aluminium brake drums were added to the rear, and the original Fiat engine was dropped in favour of a newer design also purchased from Fiat. This new engine had a modern overhead camshaft design but was never used in Fiat cars. The suspension was raised (to clear rough Russian roads) and the bodyshell was made from thicker, heavier steel. The first Lada models were equipped with a starting handle in case the battery went flat in Siberian conditions, though this was later dropped. Another feature specifically intended to help out in cold conditions was a manual auxiliary fuel pump.
Engines fitted to the original Ladas start with the 1.2L carburetor in the original and go up to the 1.7L export model set up with a General Motors single point fuel injection system. Diesel engines were later fitted for the Russian market only. The drivetrain is a simple rear-wheel drive setup with a live rear axle. The engine is an inline four with two valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft.
The Fiat-based Ladas feature various headlight, trim and body styles. The original, Fiat style models included VAZ-2101 sedan and VAZ-2102 station wagon. 1972 saw introduction of deluxe version of the sedan, VAZ-2103, which was based on Fiat 124 Speciale and featured new 1.5 L engine and twin headlights. In 1974, the original VAZ-2101 was updated with new engines and interiors; VAZ-2102 underwent the same improvements in 1976. The body style with two round headlights was manufactured until 1988, all others remain in production in slightly updated form.
The VAZ-2106 introduced in 1976 was an updated version of VAZ-2103, featuring different interiors and new 1.6 L engine. 2106 is the oldest and the most popular rear-drive model of AvtoVAZ, its production continued until 2001 and still carried on by licensees.
VAZ-2105, still based on the 2101 but updated to 80s styling, was introduced in 1980. Square headlights and new body panels distinguish this style from the old models. A deluxe version, VAZ-2107, was out in 1982; it featured a better engine, refined interiors and Mercedes-like radiator grille. In 1984, the VAZ-2104 station wagon completed the line-up.
In the domestic market, these classic models were called Zhiguli. The Lada name was used for exports only, but a large share of Ladas was reexported from Eastern bloc countries, so the brand was well-known in the domestic market as well.
AvtoVAZ designers proved that they had some original ideas when the VAZ-2121 Niva was introduced in 1978. This highly popular car was made with off-road use in mind, featuring full time all-wheel drive, an original body style and the most powerful 1.7 L engine in the VAZ range. The Niva has also been available with 1.9 L Peugeot sourced diesel engine. The Niva is still in production.
Based on the success of the Niva, the design department prepared the new family of front-wheel drive models by 1984, a completely domestic design. Production started with VAZ-21083 Sputnik 3-door hatchback; the series were later renamed Samara. The Samara engine was mostly designed and produced in-house, had a new single overhead cam design and was driven by a more modern rubber belt. The combustion chambers were developed in collaboration with Porsche. The line-up features completely new body and interiors, front McPherson suspension and rear torsion bar, rack and pinion steering and updated 5-speed gearshift. 5-door VAZ-21093 hatchback followed in 1987, and 4-door 1.5 L sedan, VAZ-21099, was introduced in 1990. The same year, the front sides and radiator grille were restyled on the whole Samara range.
The 2108-2109 models were in production until 2001, when they were restyled with new side panels, interiors and 1.5 L fuel injection engines (though fuel injection was available as early as 1995). The Lada 2109 hatchback was rebadged as Lada 2114, and Lada 21099 sedan was rebadged as the Lada 2115. The 2104-21099 model range was transferred to IzhMash and ZAZ and is still being manufactured. In 2004 VAZ also introduced Lada 2113, a restyled version of Lada 2108, but this car has never used much popularity, as the Lada 2108 was only popular for a short time.
VAZ-1111 Oka micro-car, which resembles the Fiat Panda (though has no relation to it), was introduced in 1988, and in 1991 the production was transferred to KamAZ and SeAZ factories.
The VAZ-2120 Nadezhda minivan is based on original Niva and is in low-volume production since 1998. A five-door version of the Niva, the VAZ-2131, has been in production since 1995.
The break-up of the USSR delayed the production of new 110-series by a couple of years. The VAZ-2110 sedan was introduced in 1996, the 2111 station wagon followed in 1998 and the 2112 hatchback completed the range in 2001. These models are basically based on Samara technology with a new body and fuel injection engines as standard, though carburated versions have also been available up until 2001. The 110-series remains in production and has been continually updated over the years- for example, engines used to be 1.5L units with either 8 or 16 valves, but these have now been upgraded to 1.6L units that meet stricter emissions rules.
Changes to emissions- and safety-legislation meant that AutoVAZ withdrew from most Western markets by the late 1990s; often, there were also problems with spare parts. In the USA they were never sold due to the cold war, but they were available in Canada (where the Niva was quite popular) however Canadians travelling in the USA in a Lada found out that some gas stations refused to sell fuel to them due to anti-Soviet sentiment. The rise in popularity of Far Eastern imports from newly established manufacturers such as Daewoo, Proton, Kia and Hyundai contributed to Lada's demise in the West. These Korean vehicles offered modern technology and high equipment levels which Lada could not hope to compete with.
Though the original Lada, and as of the early part of the new millennium the Samara, have now been withdrawn from Europe, the Lada 110 and the Niva are still sold on the European market, as are the more modern models. The Lada is widely available in many Central- and South American countries as well as Africa, the Middle East and in all of the former Soviet Union.
Due to the heavy taxing by the Russian government on imported used vehicles, which they were doing to prop up the locally built new car market, Russian car dealers and individuals began reimporting Lada's because they were exempt from the tax laws governing foreign made imports. As used cars in the west, the Ladas were considered unfashionable to the point of ridicule and therefore worthless. Most of export Lada Samara cars were reexported back in 1994-1996 and they sold very well, due to popular belief that export Ladas are produced with better care than domestic versions. For this reason, Ladas are a relatively rare sight nowadays in Western European countries, although AvtoVAZ has since developed a new generation of Lada cars and is bidding to return to these markets.
Although current Lada cars miss many features standard on a modern car, such as power steering, anti-lock brakes, air conditioning and automatic transmission, they have been popular in Russia because of their low price; that is beginning to change in light of persistent build quality problems and the sales of domestic models are showing a steady decline over the last few years.
There are lot of garage firms that offer customization in the form of different head and tail lamps, front fascia, spoilers, seats and steering wheels. Some authorized services can even retrofit many kinds of modern equipment using imported parts, with no loss of producer warranty.
As AvtoVAZ was allowed to sell cars to private dealers in late 1980s, Boris Berezovsky arranged to resell the cars to the public through his LogoVAZ dealerships. In 1993 he started a campaign to collect funds for the people's automobile and created the AVVA venture, which stands for All-Russian Automobile Alliance; the AvtoVAZ held a major share in the venture. The plans were to build a completely new plant for production of the VAZ-1116 supermini. However, the financial crisis of 1998 put these plans to an end. The development concepts of 1116 made a foundation of the Lada Kalina range.
GM-AvtoVAZ, a joint-venture with General Motors, adopted updated version of Niva, VAZ-2123, that was considered for production since the 1990s. Named Chevrolet Niva, it's being built on the venture's plant since 2001 and is exported to Europe and Latin America. In 2004, the Chevrolet Viva, a four-door version of the Opel Astra G, was introduced.
VAZ has also tried to get into the sportier markets: several Ladas were factory-tuned and given a Momo steering wheel. A convertible was also produced. In 2003, VAZ presented the concept car Lada Revolution, an open single seater sports car powered by a 1.6L engine producing 215hp (160kW). There are other experimental cars like VAZ-210834 Tarzan SUV concept, VAZ-1922 monster truck and VAZ-2359 pick-up both based on Niva etc. The VAZ-211223 110-series coupe, with the sister models 111 and 112 has been developed with a modern and luxurious look and feel, has been mass produced and are popular in Russia today.
Some models (mostly the police version) have a Wankel-type engine (like the Mazda RX-7). Now development of this engine has stopped. Main causes of stopping are special requirements for service & repair (mostly available in Moscow & Toliatti only) and very high fuel & lubricating oil consumption.
2005 saw the introduction of the new Kalina supermini lineup to the market. AvtoVAZ has built a new modern plant for this model and is hoping to sell some 200,000 cars annually. Test production of the Lada 1118 sedan started in November 2004 and full-scale assembly was launched in May 2005. The Lada 1119 hatchback and Lada 1117 station wagon with updated DOHC 1.6L engines are to follow in 2005–6.
The restyled 110-series model, Lada 2170 Priora, is set for production in Q3 2006.
AvtoVAZ was considering the local production of Ecotec Family 1 (FAM-1) engines using the equipment transferred from Szentgotthard, Hungary plant. A transmissions plant was to be bought from Daewoo Moto India, a former Daewoo Motors subsidiary that was not sold to GM. The engines and transmissions were to be used in both GM-AvtoVAZ and Lada cars. As of Summer 2005, these plans are cancelled and VAZ is seeking another way to acquire some modern powerplant technology.
After some shakeups in the management caused by a recent acquisition from Rosoboronexport, AvtoVAZ is currently in talks with Renault to negotiate a CKD assembly of the Renault Logan. They have also contracted Magna International to design a new car platform and equip a new plant for its production
See also: Automobile model numbering system in USSR and Russia
Each model has internal index that reflects modifications level, based on the engine and other options installed — for example, the VAZ-21103 variant has the 1.5L 16V engine, while the VAZ-21104 uses the latest 1.6L 16V fuel injection engine. Since 2001, trim levels are also indicated by including a number after the main index: '-00' means base trim level, '-01' means standard trim and '-02' designates deluxe version; for example, VAZ-21121-02 means Lada 112 hatchback with 1.6L SOHC engine in deluxe trim level.
The car's name was formed from 'VAZ-index model name. The classic Fiat-derived models were known on the domestic market as Zhiguli (Жигули) until late-1990s, when the name was dropped; thus, the 2104-2107 range, as well as 110-series, actually lack a model name. The restyled Sputnik range was renamed Samara but the Niva and the Oka retained their names. By 2000s, the VAZ designation was dropped from market names in favour of Lada and simplified export naming conventions were adopted, so VAZ-2104 effectively became Lada 2104, VAZ-2110 became Lada 110, VAZ-2114 became Lada Samara hatchback or Lada 114 and so on, though model indices continue to be used in both technical and marketing materials.
The model names varied from market to market and as such should not be used except to indicate a certain export market. Instead, it is advisable to refer solely to the model number as these are the same for all markets.
The Oka is a Russian city car designed by AvtoVAZ and sometimes branded as a Lada. This model is built in Russia by SeverstalAvto and SeAZ (the Serpuhov Car Factory), as well as in Azerbaijan by the Gyandzha Auto Plant.