Moskvich car reboots a divisive issue among Russians

With its sleek headlamps, sleek front grille and eye-catching steering wheel design, the legendary Soviet-era car, the Moscowvich, is a source of pride for any Russian who owned it.

Last made two decades ago, a surprise comeback for Muskvich – translated as “Muskovite” – is now on the cards for Western carmakers to leave Russia.

When French carmaker Renault announced his departure, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin outlined plans to nationalize his Moscow factory – which was once Moscow’s manufacturing hub – for a modern revival of the classic car brand.

Despite Moskvich’s “long and glorious history” – as Sobyanin writes it – enthusiasts told Reuters they were divided over plans to reboot a car.

“I heard that Muskvich is going to be alive again … and I’m really happy about that,” said Alexander Bondarenko, wearing a Muskvich-branded T-shirt. “If they launch a modern version of the 2140 model, I’ll buy it right away.”

However, some Muscovites are skeptical of the plans, realizing enthusiastic political motives.

“The rebirth of Moscow is a democratic decision,” said Sergei, a Moscow resident who declined to be named.

Amid a mass exodus of Western companies, President Vladimir Putin has said that Russians should be proud of the country’s industrial heritage and that they want to expand Russia’s domestic production base.

Other fans of the car said that the story of many favorite Moskvich should be in the past.

“Muskvich should not be touched: it was dead; it was killed,” said Stanislav Sibulsky, referring to the tragic death of carmaker Moscow Car Plant. He said plant workers have not been paid for years and have lost thousands of jobs.

“The plant was demolished, there was no museum there and now we are planning to restore Muskvich,” he said.

“It simply came to our notice then.

Moskvich has dozens of models, the first of which began production in 1946, and was in the fall of the Soviet Union before being wound up in 2001.

On the exciting day of the car, people regularly waited a decade to be able to acquire one of the more popular models, the Muskvich 412, which according to fans cost about 5,000 Soviet rubles in 1975, when the average monthly salary was 150 rubles.

For Sergei Ushakov, owner of Nostalgic Moskvich, the return to car life is welcome news, but he says the focus of the country should, nevertheless, be on building modern cars.

“It’s a rare object that I keep at work,” he said while presenting his 400 model Moskvich.

“But you don’t have to make the same car.”

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