In Russia, car banditry and the return of old Ladas without options

“It’s the return of banditry.” A few days ago, the Guardian reported this sentence of Eldar Gadzhieva Russian who owns four automobiles which he rents out to Muscovite taxis.

Gadzhiev had had the engine of one of his Skoda stolen and knew it: it put his business in a more than delicate position. “I thought: the repairs will cost me as much as the car”he comments to the British daily.

When he recounted his misadventure on an online forum, the man was bombarded with proposals for repairs and new engines, at of course prohibitive prices: in a country where Western sanctions have dried up all imports, the trade in spare parts, the price of which has been multiplied by ten, is going well, as are the plunders which necessarily precede them.

In and “big leap back”, the entire Russian automotive sector is thus in the process of collapsing. New car sales fell 83.5% year-on-yearthe government is forced tolighten the standards in an attempt – without success – to deal with the lack of parts.

Mercedes-Benz, VW, Ford, Toyota… Foreign manufacturers have fled the market like factories, such as Renault, which was one of the last to quit after the invasion of Ukraine by selling its local assets, in this case the manufacturer of the Lada Avtovaz, for a symbolic handful of starling rupees.

How can we continue to build automobiles when the many foreign parts on which they depend, both high and low tech, can no longer cross the border?

Naphtaline

The lines first had to stop for a few months: impossible to continue without the missing pieces, it’s as simple as that. Then the response from the Russian government and local builders was to revive an old Lada clunker, presented as «sanctions-proof»the Granta Classic.

Although the Russians no longer buy cars, or very few, this one has started to be produced again on the lines of Avtovaz, adapting it to the constraints of the day and taking into account the shortages due to the sanctions. As a result, the Granta Classic lives up to the second half of its name: initially launched in 2011, it is indeed a “classic”, almost a vintage.

Symbol of the autarky in which the Russian economy has been plunged, symbol also of the great setback suffered by the country and its inhabitantsit is one of the most rustic vehicles powered by an engine from the 1990s and from which ABS, airbags, satellite navigation systems and seat belt pretensioners are now absent.

It is a war economy car, which could not be sold on the European market if by some miracle the sanctions were relaxed: it would only respect the pollution standards enacted in 1996 for the EU.

As The Drive notes, these misadventures of the Russian automotive sector are not unique to rolling vehicles. One of the most effective types of sanctions against the entire Russian economy concerns the airline sector.

If Moscow succeeded in keep hold of dozens of aircraft it should have returned to its European ownersthe country is weaned from spare parts and is already beginning to dismantle some planes to continue to fly others.

This situation is not without posing security problems: China, though diplomatically close to Russia, barred its airspace to Russian Airbuses and Boeingsand concern about the safety of the passengers of these planes-Frankenstein increases around the world.