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Russia's Lada retires 'classic' Soviet car

The adored Lada 2107 is retired after Russian car maker pulls the boxy vehicle from production due to shrinking demand in 2012

AFP, Tuesday 17 Apr 2012
Lada cars are very popular in Egypt working as taxi cabs
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Russia's main car maker Lada said on Monday it was pulling one of its classic 1982 models from production after sales shrank for the boxy vehicle that was dated from the moment it was introduced.

The announcement leaves Russians without a rickety but adored four seater an entire generation grew up with and confirms the manufacturer's shift to newer models with safety and other features more acceptable in the West.

"Demand for the 'classic' has dropped a lot. It is time to say goodbye," company spokesman Igor Burenkov said in a statement released to AFP.

The Lada 2107 -- a trademark of the AvtoVAZ manufacturer that was sold in Europe under the Riva tag -- was the Volga region plant's fastest and most sporty model at the time of production.

The car was an updated model of a 2101 version that was first developed by the Soviet Union under agreement with Italy based on the Fiat 124 -- a four-door sedan first produced to great European acclaim in 1966.

The 2107 was the last of the original square and diminutive sedans sold under the Zhiguli brand in the Soviet Union. It was also a victim of more jokes than possibly any other make in the world.

But the car's legend rested not only in its ability to break down almost anywhere but also its drivers' inside out knowledge of how to fix every nut and bolt by hand.

AvtoVAZ said it reached its final decision after seeing the 2107's sales shrink 76 percent in the first quarter.

Statistics compiled by the Avtostat agency still showed it being Russia's fastest-selling used car.

The five-speed manual transmission -- its main upgrade on the earlier model comprising a chrome front grill -- could reach 150 kilometres (about 95 miles) an hour on a good day.

A car radio and a fan were luxurious extras available only on some models.

But the 2107 again became Russia's top sellers when rebates from the government's 2010-2011 "cash for clunkers" programme brought each vehicle's cost down to 206,000 rubles (around $7,000 at the time).

Lada now manufactures its cars in alliance with Renault-Nissan in a bid to rejuvenate the lineup with foreign technology and styling help.

But the plan has been painfully slow getting off the ground.

Data compiled by the Association of European Businesses in Russia shows Lada sales down 15 percent in the first quarter compared to the 50-percent gains recorded by second-place Nissan and third-ranked Hyundai.

The sleek new Hyundai Solaris for its part was Russia's second-fastest selling car in February.

The 2107 -- known as "the seven" in Russia and produced in its heyday in countries stretching from Mexico to Brazil -- had most recently been produced at AvtoVAZ's Izhevsk plant.

The same plant still manufactures a hatchback cousin of the 2107 called the 2104.

But those cars will also soon be put out of production as AvtoVAZ and Renault-Nissan move begin rolling out the four-door Lada Granta.

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