The German Lada importer has never had it easy. But lately things seemed to be going more smoothly at the headquarters in faraway Togliatti. Announced new models came also actually relatively promptly to Europe. With Bo Andersson, who is coming from General Motors, at the helm of the company. To former Volvo designer Steve Mattin, Russia's still largest automaker Avtovaz seemed to be picking up speed.
First, the classic 4×4 (better known as the Niva) was given a subtle facelift as the Urban model version, then a fairly modern and reasonably competitive car finally came onto the market with the Vesta in 2017. The station wagon introduced in 2018 was then able to really convince and, especially as the Vesta SW Cross, also found appreciative glances from people who had not paid any attention to the brand until then. And there was far less doubt than usual that the crossover variant X-Ray would also find its way onto the German market in the foreseeable future.
Although the expectations on the German side (which were too high from the outset) regarding the sales figures of the compact class model from Russia were not fulfilled, the dealers finally had a presentable car in addition to the 4×4 in their yards. The fact that exports of Lada vehicles were suddenly halted following Renault's majority takeover just six months after the market launch of the new model is something that Managing Director Dieter Trzaska takes personally in the truest sense of the word. It sees itself in the debt of the dealers, whose expectations raised with the Vesta it can no longer fulfill with the – albeit probably only temporary – end of the brand.
The official reason for the decision at the company's headquarters in Togliatti is the increasingly stringent exhaust emission regulations in the EU. The parent company would have appropriate engines on the shelf – but also with Dacia already successfully a "low-cost brand" at the start. Lada may no longer fit into the picture, although the company is still the market leader in Russia. The market share is even higher than that of Volkswagen on the German market. The importer partly blames the Renault Group for the Vesta's difficult status in this country. The had priced the car in view of the brand image of Lada about 1500 euros too high.
More than 28.000 Lada are on the road
After all, over 28.000 Lada were according to Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt at the beginning of this year on Germany roads on the way. The importer from Buxtehude is responsible for its service and spare parts supply as well as warranty services. This is also ensured with the new contracts concluded for April 2020. Everything else is far less safe.
In the next two years, the German managing director suspects, Lada manufacturer Avtovaz will "catch its breath". In Germany, he sees little prospect of any kind of new start for the brand with the Volga ship in its emblem before 2024. All efforts to continue on one's own have so far failed in the executive suite, which in the meantime has been determined by the French owner. Unfortunately, Dieter Trzaska regrets that he "hasn't found a gap at Lada yet". Even with the actually still valid agreement for the small series production of the 4×4, it does not get further at the moment. It made it last at all possible to bring the best-seller in the German Lada program to Europe and to circumvent the requirements for pedestrian protection. Two years ago, the importer in Buxtehude even managed a surprise coup with the five-door long version of the 4×4. The model had not been officially available in this country for 20 years.
Fact is: Lada lives. The 4×4 has just been refreshed in Russia with a modern interior and more comfort features, the Vesta passed the 400,000-plus unit mark a few days ago, and Avtovaz has completely taken over the former joint venture with General Motors to build the Chevrolet Niva.
But it is also a fact that the last 500 new vehicles for Germany are waiting to be delivered. By the end of February, beginning of March, Lada spokesman Bernd Haack estimates, all 4x4s will have been sold. With the not so popular Vesta the stocks might last until August or September. Until then, an alternative is needed. That means the German Lada GmbH in China. To have found with the electric mobility.
Joylong and Zhidou
Contracts have already been signed with two manufacturers. So Lada Germany wants to bring the 4.90 meter long EF 5 from Joylong as a van and as a van to Germany at first. With the EM 5 a minivan would also be available. Second in the new bunch is Zhidou (ZD), with the two-door D2S subcompact in smart format and a range of up to 257 kilometers. A German-language brochure for the vehicle, which is already available in Austria, has at least already been printed. It promises, among other things, automatic climate control, navigation, a 9-inch central screen, Bluetooth and Internet access as well as a rearview camera, leatherette upholstery and an audio system as standard.
The new chapter is scheduled to begin no later than the third quarter of 2020. "2021 will have to show then," Dieter Trzaska looks ahead. And immediately looks a bit further into the future. According to him, two new electric vehicle manufacturers have already set up shop near Lada's Togliatti plant. Maybe one day something will be possible after all.