The “Moscowvich” Soviet-era car brand could make a surprising return to Russia, as Moscow took over Renault’s property after the French carmaker left the country.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said he will nationalize Renault’s car factory in the city, after the Western carmaker sold its local business after the conflict broke out in Ukraine.
Sobyanin said the plant had a “long and glorious history” and would be rebuilt to produce the Moskvich brand passenger car that was last built two decades ago.
“The foreign owner has decided to shut down the Moscow Renault plant. It has the right to do so, but we cannot let thousands of workers go without work,” Sobyanin said on his blog. “In 2022, we will open a new page in the history of Moscow.”
The Moskvich, meaning “native of Moscow,” was first created in the Soviet Union and was intended to be a powerful, affordable passenger car made up of parts made in Russia and communist East Germany.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the carmaker was privatized and later declared bankrupt.
According to the AutoStat Analytical Agency, there are still about 200,000 Muskvich cars registered in Russia, of which 46,000 are over 35 years old.
For Sobyanin, who called the car a “legend,” the return of Moskvich could prove to be virtually difficult, said Sergei Selikov, head of the autostat.
“It takes at least two years and at least $ 1 billion to build a new car,” Selikov said.
Sobyanin says the revived Moscow plant will initially produce conventional cars with combustion engines, but will in the future produce electric cars.
He said he was working with the Russian Ministry of Commerce to dedicate as much car parts from Russia as possible and would act as the main technical partner of the Russian truck manufacturer Kamaz plant.
In a statement, Kamaz said that while it supported the mayor’s decision, issues related to technical cooperation were still under discussion and that it would issue an official statement once those issues were resolved.
Russia has called its move in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegations are baseless and an act of war aggression.