Lada[note 1] (Cyrillic: Лада, Russian pronunciation: [ˈladə]), marketed as LADA,[note 2] is a brand of cars manufactured by AvtoVAZ (originally VAZ), a Russian company owned by the French Groupe Renault. From January 2021 onwards Lada is integrated with sister brand Dacia into Renault's Lada-Dacia business unit.
The first cars manufactured by AvtoVAZ, then a state-owned enterprise, were produced with technical assistance from Fiat and marketed under the Zhiguli designation. The Lada brand appeared in 1973, initially being overseas-focused before becoming AvtoVAZ's main brand for all markets in the 1990s. Groupe Renault took control of the brand in 2016. Technical assistance from the French company started in 2008, after it acquired a minority AvtoVAZ stake.
The keys to its success were said to be its competitive price, reliability, simple DIY-friendly mechanics and simple functionality. The car was built under license in several other countries. The competitive pricing and ease of service made Ladas popular as police cars, taxis, and a range of public service and civil defense vehicles in many parts of Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
The automaker AvtoVAZ was formed from a collaboration between Fiat and the Soviet Vneshtorg (Department of Foreign Trade), and based in the city of Tolyatti on the Volga river. Both sides discussed the proposal in Moscow, where Gianni Agnelli, the owner and nephew of the founder of Fiat, and Vittorio Valletta, the president of the company, had arrived from Italy. The first preliminary agreement was signed on 1 July 1965. On 4 May 1966, the Soviet minister of automotive industry Alexander Tarasov and Vittorio Valletta put their signatures on a protocol on the scientific and technical cooperation between Fiat and the Soviet ministry. Eventually, a general agreement between the two sides was signed in Moscow on 15 August 1966.
The company began producing the VAZ-2101 in 1970, which was a more rugged version of the Fiat 124 sedan. The car was given heavier steel body panels and strengthened components, which improved reliability on the bumpy roads and in the harsh winters of the Soviet Union. In Fiat's documents the prototype of the car was named Fiat-124R, where 'R' stood for Russia.
The first cars manufactured by AvtoVAZ with technical assistance from Fiat were marketed under the Zhiguli designation, allegedly chosen after it was suggested by the designer, A. M. Cherny. When the cars began to be exported on foreign markets, the Zhiguli designation was found to be inappropriate, as it was hard to pronounce for non-Russian speakers, and it was said to resemble the word gigolo too closely. Lada become the brand for export markets. Due to the scarcity of auto repair shops in the Soviet Union, Ladas were designed to be easily maintained by their owners. The rugged Lada was popular in Europe, Canada and South America for customers looking for more affordable alternatives to local brands, and sales of the new cars were extremely successful, reaching as far as New Zealand. In the West, their construction was frequently described as cheap and that inspired jokes at the car's expense; nonetheless, Lada "gained a reputation as a maker of solid, unpretentious and reliable cars for motorists who wanted to drive on a budget." The Lada brand appeared in 1973, and it has since become the main brand for AvtoVAZ vehicles. The name Lada is derived from lada, a type of small boat in Slavic language, symbolized by the car's logo.
Since the original Fiat engine did not have any space for modernization, which was considered as unacceptable by AvtoVAZ, it was replaced with a newer overhead camshaft motor. The car was equipped with rugged drum brakes, as the latter proved to be more reliable on poor roads, and more reliable and up-to-date front and rear suspensions, along with increased ground clearance, modernized transmission, recessed door handles. The work on the new car was conducted by joint groups of NAMI and Fiat engineers, who worked together in Turin and Tolyatti. By the spring of 1970, AvtoVAZ had formed its own team of experienced designers and engineers and worked independently.
After having built a number of prototypes and experimental vehicles, AvtoVAZ designers launched the first car entirely of their own design, the VAZ-2121 Niva, in 1977. This highly popular and innovative sport utility vehicle (SUV) was made with off-road use in mind, featuring a gearbox with a central differential lock lever, as well as a low- and high-range selector lever.
The 110-series sedan was introduced in 1995, two years after its original 1993 deadline. Development costs for the car were estimated at $2 billion. The 2111 station wagon followed in 1998 and the 2112 hatchback completed the range in 2001. A five-door version of the Niva, the VAZ-2131, was introduced in 1995.
The VAZ-2120 Nadezhda, a minivan based on the Lada Niva, was introduced in 1998. In the second half of the 1990s, some efforts were made to improve the quality of production, but in 1999, nearly 50,000 cases of cars were still being assembled with missing parts.
The introduction of the new Kalina B-segment lineup to the market occurred in 2005. AutoVAZ built a new modern plant for this model, hoping to sell some 200,000 cars annually. The Kalina had been originally designed in the early 1990s, and its launch was repeatedly delayed, exemplifying the company's difficulty in bringing products to market in time. In March 2007, Lada launched the Priora, a restyled and modernised 110-series model.
In March 2008, Renault purchased a minority 25% stake in AvtoVAZ in a US$1 billion deal, with Rostec retaining the remaining 75%. Sales of the Granta, a subcompact car developed in collaboration with Renault, started in December 2011. The Largus, another vehicle with Renault technology, was launched in the Russian market by the middle of July 2012. In August 2012, the XRAY concept car was launched at the Moscow International Automobile Salon. The XRAY was designed by then-chief designer Steve Mattin, formerly of Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. The second generation of the Lada Kalina, basically a facelifted first generation, was also revealed at the 2012 Moscow International Motor Show. The Kalina is also produced as the more powerful version named Lada Kalina Sport. Production of the Vesta, based on a new B\C platform developed by AvtoVAZ in cooperation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, started on 25 September 2015, at Lada Izhevsk manufacturing site. For the first time in Lada history, only a year had passed between concept car and start of production. The XRAY, based on a Dacia platform, was the first compact city crossover in the company's history. Sales started on 14 February 2016.
In 2016, after various acquisitions, Renault became the parent company of AvtoVAZ and took control of Lada. In January 2021, after a company revamp, Renault said it would integrate Lada and sister brand Dacia into a Lada-Dacia business unit.
Yves Caracatzanis is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lada's owner AvtoVAZ. Denis Le Vot is the CEO of the Lada-Dacia business unit, focused on the development of both Lada and Dacia-branded cars. Jean-Philippe Salar is Lada's chief designer.
The first official logo for AvtoVAZ was introduced in 1970. It was used by all its products irrespective of under which name they were marketed. This logo consisted of an upright, shield-like badge with a stylized Viking boat inside. In the mid-1990s the company introduced a new logo, this time with an horizontal ellipse-like layout, still keeping the boat inside it. The logo design was maintained while being updated in 2002 and 2015.
In 2004, AvtoVAZ officially ended the use of multiple designations for the Russian market, unifying from then on all its products under the Lada brand. It also established the use of the latin script in that market to write both the Lada name and its model nameplates on cars as well as marketing and documentation material.
- Granta sedan
- Granta Drive Active
- Granta liftback
- Granta hatchback
- Granta SW
- Granta Cross
- Vesta sedan
- Vesta Cross
- Vesta SW
- Vesta SW Cross
- Vesta CNG
- Vesta Sport
- XRAY Cross
- Largus Universal
- Largus Universal CNG
- Largus Cross
- Largus Cross CNG
- Largus Wagon
- Largus Wagon CNG
Lada produces two Niva variants:
- Automobile model numbering system in USSR and Russia
- List of AvtoVAZ vehicles
- AvtoVAZ vehicles in international markets
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