In several years’ time Russia’s top officials will abandon their office limousines from Mercedes and other foreign manufactures to start riding about in domestically engineered and made VIP cars. While the State Duma is still in the process of discussing a cap on the price of limousines for officials, the government keeps working on a project called Motorcade, which envisages the production of different cars for government needs on a unified platform. The minimum price of such a vehicle however, is unlikely to be below two million roubles.
Under the Motorcade project a variety of vehicles will be manufactured - from escort cars, including minivans, sedans and off-road vehicles to deluxe limos for top officials. The Moscow-based central research automobile institute NAMI has been commissioned to work on the Motorcade project. On September 13 it was appointed the sole state contractor. On the basis of this institute a pool of designers has been created. Their task is to deliver a whole family of models.
The daily Izvestia quotes Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov as saying “when the project peaks, we shall achieve an aggregate output figure of 15,000-20,000 cars of all configurations a year - sedans, off-road vehicles and minibuses.” A unified platform is number one task. A variety of car bodies will be based on it, which will make batch production easier and reduce costs.
Manturov believes that the lowest price of the yet-to-be designed cars (the sedan in particular) will be no less than two million roubles. “But we have not set the task of making a car for the middle level official. It is going to be a car for the top officials, starting from deputy governor, if the regional hierarchy of power is to be used as an example.”
A source has told the daily Kommersant the estimated price of full configuration vehicles has turned out rather high - the sedan will be available for about two million roubles (around $62,700), and off-road vehicles, for about three million roubles.
The Motorcade project is being developed jointly with the producer of sports cars OOO Marussia Motors under Nikolai Fomenko.
The limousine for the top officials will most probably bear the ZIL logo. As far the choice of a brand for future cars to be produced serially is concerned, there is far less clarity. One of the ideas under discussion is reviving the Russo-Balt make (some cars were manufactured under this brand in Riga in the early the 20th century). Marussia is for making cars under its own brand.
The first prototypes are to be unveiled in 2014-2015. The government has already allocated about 700 million roubles for this work. “The production of cars is scheduled to begin in 2017,” as source said.
The project’s budget already incorporates six billion roubles of government funds for launching the production of cars. The amount of extra-budgetary financing has not been determined yet.
According to the source, the Moscow-based truck and car manufacturer ZIL is considered as a likely production site for the Motorcade project. Oleg Deripaska’s GAZ group in Nizhni Novgorod contests participation but the government of Moscow is adamant the project should be placed in Moscow.
In the former Soviet Union all officials were using domestically manufactured cars. Senior Communist Party and government functionaries had at their disposal the Chaika (Seagull) limousines, which were assembled in the city of Gorny (currently Nizhni Novgorod) in 1959 through 1988. The highest officials - members of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo and secretaries of the Communist Party’s Central Committee - wee entitled to larger ZIL limousines. After the breakup of the USSR, Russian officials began to use foreign cars, mostly German.
The idea of making Russian officials ride only domestically manufactured cars was on the agenda once, during Boris Yeltsin’s rule. However, the project began to take shape just recently. The authorities pursue two aims - encouraging patriotism and extending a helping hand to the domestic automotive industry, which after Russia’s accession to the WTO is confronted with many new challenges.
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