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Lada is the trademark of AutoVAZ, a Russian car manufacturer. It was chosen for exports over the domestic Zhiguli brand, but since the 1980s the name has been used in Soviet and later Russian market as well. Lada made its name in Western Europe selling the Lada Riva in large quantities during the 1980s, but subsequent models have not enjoyed the same success as the Riva. Its headquarters are in Togliatti (Samara Oblast or province).

Lada in the UK

1982 Lada 1300

AutoVAZ began exporting cars to the UK in 1974 using the brand name Lada. The Fiat 124-based range was slated for its outdated technology, poor fuel economy and tank-like roadholding, but it gained popularity thanks to its ruggedness, spacious interior, massive boot and low asking price. Many Lada owners swore by their cars. After introduction of the Riva range in 1980, sales through the 1980's were particularly strong, with UK sales peaking in 1988 at 33,000 units (being near 2% of UK car sales). AutoVAZ built up a network of UK Lada dealers through its marketing associate, Satra Motors. Some of the dealerships were owned outright and some were agencies. The Satra-owned dealerships were all sold off in 1987 and 1988.

1978 Lada 1500

Lada was a victim of the political and economic problems of Russia in the late 80s and early 90s. It was not possible to invest adequately in product and service development. By the 1990's the age of the basic Riva design was showing more than ever. Not even sub-£5,000 prices on the basement models were enough to disguise the 1966 vintage of the design. UK sales dwindled away to 8,000 units in 1996, the last full year in which Lada cars were marketed in the UK. During this period, many Lada dealers either went out of business or switched to other makes of car. Confronted with the need to meet new EU emission control requirements and with a shortage of certain imported components, AutoVAZ decided to withdraw from the UK and most other western European markets. Lada cars maintained a presence in a number of African, Caribbean and Latin American markets.

From 1979, Lada produced the Niva four-wheel drive. It was hugely superior to Japanese rivals like the infamous Suzuki SJ in terms of practicality and stability, and above all else, few off-roaders in the world could better its off-road ability. Also, the Niva was significantly cheaper than its rivals. This was one area where Lada achieved some market success in the 1990s. The Niva was adopted by several British police forces and attracted something of a cult following within the 4x4 enthusiast fraternity in the UK and elsewhere. After the withdrawal of Lada from the UK in 1997, several dealers continued to acquire Nivas by special import for sale in the UK. These required some local modification in order to meet emission control regulations current in the UK. A few Lada enthusiasts make the trip to Tallinn where they can buy new, right hand drive Ladas (made for the West African market) for as little as US$2,500.

1985 Lada Riva 1500
Lada's first attempt at a modern car came with the Samara hatchback in 1984 (launched in the UK in 1987), which made use of a completely new mechanical design. But many budget-conscious buyers simply stuck with the old Riva, which many would argue was actually a better car (despite its ancient design) and also sold for significantly less.

In 1997, the Lada range was withdrawn from Britain and most other European markets, but it continued to be an enormous success in Russia. Another attempt at a modern car came in 1996 with the 2110, which is similar in size to a Ford Mondeo or Opel Vectra. This model was never sold in the UK. It looked and was far more modern than the rest of the Lada range, but proved disastrously unreliable in its early years, causing the company already in financial difficulty to spend millions ironing out the many faults which had been reported.

After Lada (UK) ceased operations in 1997, the remains of the British network of Lada dealers were serviced by Lada (France). Ladas rapidly disappeared from British roads. They had minimal second-hand value in the UK and a re-export market for Russia developed. Many UK and Eire registered Ladas were sold back to Russia to be stripped for spare parts or to be sold to Russian buyers who appreciated the superior export-specification cars.

There have been several attempts to reintroduce Ladas to the UK market, but these have not produced a result as yet.


Lada Kalina Sedan

Motor Sport

Russian carmaker Lada Avtovaz has announced plans to participate in next year's FIA World Touring Car Championship. The programme will be officially launched in at the Moscow Sport-Motor-Tuning Exhibition on November 3. 2006 will mark the 40th anniversary of Lada Avtovaz.

Lada have a 35-year tradition in motorsport, mostly concentrated in its home market and not visible to international audiences. Lada hopes that its participation in WTCC will increase its worldwide recognition

See also

External links