For the first time in around 40 years, the best selling car in Russia is not a Lada, as supplier troubles mean the brand's Granta subcompact was overtaken by the Kia Rio in November.
There are auto marques you'd associate with racing and those you wouldn't. Names like Audi, Porsche, Nissan, Ferrari, Ford and Chevy would fall firmly in the former category. Lada... slightly less so. The Russian automaker is remembered (when it is remembered, anyway) for its no-frills, Soviet-era automobiles – many of which it's still making today. Hardly the kind of machinery you'd want to take to the racetrack, but Lada and its parent company AvtoVAZ set out to upset that notion when it
"It's time to say goodbye," said AvtoVAZ spokesman Igor Burenkov to Russia's RIA Novosti about the end of Lada 2107 production, which happened this week. The Lada 2107, also called the Lada Riva, has been plying Russian roads since before Ronald Reagan started redesigning walls. It's one of the cars you're most likely to see in grainy film and video clips from the days before Glastnost.
Lada? Racing? We've got to be kidding, right? Only we're not. While the Russian automaker may not have the motorsport pedigree of, say, Ferrari or Porsche, there's reason enough to believe it's getting serious.
It's not every day that Lada comes out with a new car. In fact, the Samara – which the model you see here is set to replace – has been on the market pretty much unchanged since 1997. (And that's not even their oldest model: the Niva 4x4 has been out there since 1977.) So the launch of the new Granta is a bit of an occasion for the Russian automaker and its parent company, AvtoVaz.