The launched Russian full-scale war against Ukraine is complete nonsense and stupidity. Only the completely blind and stupid do not see and do not understand this: there are more than enough examples. One such example is the revealing story of the Moskvitch automobile plant, which has made an incredibly cool pique over the past few months. By the way, this is not the first time in history.
Moskvitch automobile plant: beginning
Usually, the beginning of the history of the Moskvitch plant is associated with the Moskvitch-400 car of the late 1940s. However, in reality, the beginning of the activity of the plant with the name KIM (Communist International of Youth) should be sought in 1930, when the licensed production of Ford cars began.
By the way, during its existence, the plant changed its name several times: ZMA (Plant of Small Cars), MZMA (Moscow Plant of Small Cars), AZLK (Automobile Factory in honor of Komsomol Leninist Communist Youth Union), simply Moskvitch, Avtoframos plant and finally Russian plant Renault. Further on in the text, I will use the name Moskvitch to not get confused. Moreover, from the middle of May, the plant is called exactly the same – simply Moskvitch. However, let’s go back to the 1930s: thus, the beginning of the plant and the production of the first Fords.
And then there was the Second World War, which some define as “patriotic”, but it is impossible to refrain from the term “invasive”. Because in the end quite a lot of countries, including part of Germany, ended up “on the hook” of the USSR. Having access to local factories, the leaders of the USSR decided to export certain enterprises and production lines. This happened with the production of the Opel Kadett model in 1936. It was this car that became the basis of the Moskvich-400, which was produced from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s.
So, the beginning of the Moskvitch plant is the licensed assembly of Ford cars and “stolen-reparation” Opel cars. But then came…
The golden age during the USSR
Anyway, the period 1950-1970 was a period of prosperity for the Moskvitch plant. It all started with the “Moskvich-402/407” model, which was built according to foreign analogs, but there was no question of total copying. Moreover, in addition to the traditional “sedan” body, the Moskvitch-407 car also acquired many other useful modifications – for example, “wagon” and “van”. And even something similar to a modern crossover in the form of Moskvitch-411: a combination of a convenient wagon body, a comfortable interior of a passenger car, and all-wheel drive. Of course, this was not due to a better life, it was simply required by bad Soviet roads. In addition, similar cars also appeared at other local car factories. However, this does not exclude the contribution of the Moskvitch plant. In addition, we can also mention the first export deliveries of cars abroad.
The next step was the creation of Moskvitch-408 and Moskvitch-412 cars. They got a good design (for the date of release) and tried to become a mass car for Soviet people much earlier than VAZ. Of course, the rear-wheel drive was already getting old at that time, and the engine was not powerful enough. However, let’s remember the mass production, add various body types, and also the organization of car production at another plant. This refers to the IZH plant, which worked for the Soviet military complex (and what didn’t work for it back then?) and had areas for additional production. Interestingly, the production of Moskvitch cars at the Izhevsk plant was not limited to the assembly of existing models. It also developed its own car, known as IZH Combi.
So the period of 1950-1970 was indeed a kind of “period of prosperity” for the plant. However, when the Moskvitch-408/412 family turned into Moskvitch-2140, a period of stagnation began for the plant. The cars looked outdated and lost to the new VAZs in terms of perceived design, interior equipment, engine power, etc. The Moskvitch plant needed a new surge, which became…
Moskvitch-2141 and decline of the 90s
Like its predecessor, the new Moskvitch-2141 car was quite revolutionary: an aerodynamic “hatchback” body, front-wheel drive, large dimensions (larger than the VAZ-2109), good visibility. It’s often said that Moskvitch-2141 was copied from Simca car, however, it was not blind copying. And the problem was not in copying, but in everything else: poor quality of components and general production, lack of a suitable engine, general delays with the introduction of a new model into the series. When, at the end of the 1980s, more or less large-scale production of the Moskvitch-2141 car finally began, it was already beginning to become morally obsolete.
Ultimately, the collapse of the USSR led to problems at the plant: it worked irregularly, cars were produced incomplete. The new management tried to revive the “dead horse”, creating new and new designs based on the Moskvitch-2141 model. And if updating a car called Moskvitch Svyatogor or developing a sedan with an extended wheelbase looks somehow logical, then creating a 2-seater Duet coupe in a country where the majority of the population survives thanks to humanitarian aid and Bush legs is outrageous.
However, it was then that an event occurred that had important consequences for the future of the Moskvitch plant: Renault gasoline engines began to be installed on the updated Svyatogor model. At the same time, the Renault company was looking for ways to enter the Russian car market to sell its inexpensive cars there – first it was the Renault Clio Symbol sedan (or simply Renault Symbol), then it was time for the Renault Logan. Ultimately, this all led to the next stage…
“New breath” with Renault and further “Chinese history”
Starting from 1998 and until the present 2022, the Moskvitch plant received a “new breath” thanks to Renault. The company Avtoframos was created, and in 2005, the production of cars began: first, simple assembly, and then more full-scale production. In the end, it came down to its own localized cars: Renault Kaptur and Arkana models, the Nissan Terrano crossover (even if it was just a modified “first” Renault Duster).
However, you have to pay for stupid actions. After the start of a full-scale war against Ukraine, working on the Russian market became “toxic” for the image, this is understandable for many companies, including Renault. So the French also decided to leave: they stopped their activities in March, and finally gave up on the Russian market in May. In fact, how Renault was withdrawing is a topic for a separate article. And now we are interested in the Moskvitch plant. The latter became the property of the local Moscow government, and local officials immediately began to promise a lot.
Oh, and they promised so much that the head was spinning! First, the technical partner of the Moskvitch plant should have been KamAZ plant (which itself was under sanctions). Secondly, they promised to produce 300,000 cars per year, which were to be simply sold or transferred to car-sharing and taxis. Thirdly, they talked about resuming production by the end of the current year. And it is the last point that turns out to be the most interesting because it is impossible to develop a new car in such a short time, not to mention the start of its serial production. Copying, though, is a different thing…
After the announcement of such grandiose plans, the question of the reality of their implementation immediately arose for any sober-minded person. The most realistic method seems to be the involvement of Chinese car manufacturers and the start of assembling their cars. It seems that such a partner will be the JAC company. The Moskvitch line has already been presented, where the cars are nothing more than copies of Chinese models. This is how it turned out: the entire Russian country tensed up, involved KamAZ and the Moscow government, even third-party companies and all this only so that an automobile factory with almost a 100-year history was forced to copy and assemble Chinese cars. Do you believe that anything good will come of this?
Even local car-owners do not believe it. The first surveys regarding the future of the Moskvitch plant clearly demonstrate the mood of potential customers. Only a third of respondents believe in the restoration of work and the successful production of cars. About 45% of respondents believe that the Moskvitch plant will simply be abandoned over time. And another 22% of respondents are sure that a residential complex or a shopping center will be built on the territory of the plant. So, 2/3 simply do not believe in the future of this plant.
Conclusions from history
As you can easily see from the above article, in many cases the history of the Moskvitch plant was based on borrowed cars and technologies. Sometimes even just stolen, as was the case with Opel.
It may look strange for Russian society, but you get a good result only when you work hard on it with your own hands and head. It is worth noting that such examples in the history of Moskvitch also happened: the period of 1950-1970 and the era of Renault.
However, it is difficult to think and work. It is much easier to copy China. This seems to be happening now not only with the Russian Moskvitch car plant, but also with their entire country and society. Although in the end everything is logical. Everyone will get what they deserve.