Leadership: Russian Rulers Demand a Russian Ride


May 29, 2010: Some senior members of the Russian government have noted that Russia can no longer produce luxury sedans for its leaders. Actually, Russia can, but Russian leaders prefer better engineered (more comfortable and much cheaper) German cars. The traditional producer of Russian luxury sedans, Zil, largely dropped out of the automobile business when the Cold War ended in 1991. Actually, it was driven out by higher quality Western automobiles. After several rounds of downsizing, Zil gets by with some truck manufacturing (a few thousand vehicles a year), and the ability to build the traditional Zil "government sedan". These behemoths (over three tons, without the armor kit) look something like an old U.S. Packard sedan, and are hand built. Thus they cost as much as a Rolls Royce, but are not nearly as well designed or constructed. Old Soviet era bosses pretended not to notice, although most kept an Audi, BMW or Cadillac at home for personal use.

The current ZIL model, the ZIL-41047, was designed in the 1980s, and can still be special ordered. A new model, the ZIL-4112 has been around in prototype form since 2005, and can be ordered as well, if you're willing to pay extra. The president of Russia is demanding that Russia regain the ability to build automobiles that senior government officials will willingly ride around in. In theory, Russia could pull this off. Might take them a while to build up enough street cred to give Rolls Royce and Maybach any serious competition, but it could be done. Maybe. If it did happen, it would mean a big turnaround for the Russian automotive industry, which has long survived on "good enough," and often less than that. Foreign automobiles, once they had free access to the Russian market, blew the Soviet era car makers away.



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