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29 July, 2008

Russia: GAZ Group starts building Chrysler-based Volga Siber

GAZ Group has at last commenced production of the much-delayed Volga Siber sedan, its entrant in an expanding Russian market for models such as Toyota and Ford's St Petersburg-built Camry and Mondeo sedans.

Job 1 at the OEM's Nizhy Novgorod plant was waved off the line by Vladimir Putin, who later took the car for a test drive.

"It takes off fast and they've increased the clearance. It will be fine for our roads," the prime minister of the Russian Federation stated.

"Today we have launched a project which will open up a new phase in Russia's car manufacturing industry," said Sergey Zanozin, GAZ Group's chairman, who also spoke at the ceremony.

"The GAZ Group has started to produce a new line of cars under the Volga brand on platforms from the world's leading manufacturers. The new production complex has the flexible capacity needed to bring new models into production at minimal cost and investment in the future," Zanozin added.

The Siber has been under development for two years and is a modified version of the former US-built Chrysler Cirrus. That model was replaced by the Sebring/Cirrus sedan (US & Canada/Mexico) for North America's 2007 model year.

The then DaimlerChrysler shipped the production line to Russia, having sold it to GAZ in April 2006. Engines are provided by Chrysler LLC, these being sourced from Mexico. Earlier this year, GAZ stated that it eventually plans to build up to 65,000 units of what is now known to be the Volga Siber from 2010. The car itself debuted at the Moscow motor show in August 2007.

Returning to powertrains, to start with, only a manual transmission/2.0-litre version is available but automatics plus 2.4 and 2.7 litre cars will go on sale in late 2008. GAZ plans to build 20,000 units in 2008 and 40,000 in 2009. The plant's capacity is 100,000 units per annum.

GAZ notes that the car was modified "by the leading British studio UltraMotive, which took into account the latest trends in modern car design". The Siber is said to have been fully adapted to Russia's roads and harsh winter conditions. As well as the obvious higher ride height, the suspension has been stiffened.

Another company aiding GAZ in bringing the Siber to market was Magna International. The Canadian Tier 1 played an active role in the installation and fine tuning of the assembly line, along with the training of GAZ Group employees.

As well as the heavy trucks it is perhaps best known for, GAZ makes a wide range of light commercial vehicles, buses, construction equipment, cars, powertrains and related components. It operates 18 production facilities in Russia and the UK.

GAZ Group's consolidated sales in 2007 totalled over US$15.9bn, it states, and its market capitalization is currently US$3.2bn. The firm is the main civil automotive asset of its parent, Russian Machines, an arms group that is itself a subsidiary of Basic Element, an investment fund.

Basic Element is said to be a diversified investment company established in 1997 with assets in Russia and overseas. Its main assets are concentrated in six sectors - Energy, Resources, Manufacturing, Financial Services, Construction and Aviation. Revenues for 2007 exceeded US$26bn and its market value is quoted by GAZ as US$45bn. As well as employing 300,000 people worldwide, Basic Element has particular relevance in the automotive supplier business, via its 20% ownership of Magna.

Source : Automotive World - Russia: GAZ Group starts building Chrysler-based*Volga Siber

I remember the Chrysler Cirrus, do you? In some ways it might sell better than the Sebring is now. Russia plans to build 60,000 of them in the next two years. Who knows what production line Chrysler LLC might sell in the future?
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