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Gor'kiy Automobile Factory [GAZ]

GAZ Group, a member of Basic Element, a most diversified Russian industrial group, produces light and medium duty commercial vehicles, buses, heavy-duty trucks, passenger cars, powertrains and auto components. It incorporates 13 plants in 8 regions of Russia. It is the leader of the commercial vehicles market of Russia and occupies 50% of the light commercial vehicles segment and nearly 75% of the buses segment. The flagship product of the company is the light commercial vehicle of the new generation GAZelle NEXT. GAZ Group is the leader among Russian automakers in creating eco-friendly types of vehicles, including vehicles on alternative fuels.

GAZ Group is integrating itself into the global automotive industry through partnerships with the leading global OEMs. GAZ Group is cooperating with the leaders of the global automotive industry, like Volkswagen and Daimler, in production of passenger cars koda Octavia, koda Yeti, Volkswagen Jetta and commercial vehicles Mercedes-Benz Sprinter on the GAZ production facilities. It set up joint ventures with the European autocomponent manufacturers Bosal and Bulten. The joint projects with the global companies allow GAZ Group to modernize its capacities and provide the personnel with training in the best standards of the global automotive industry for its own product portfolio development and participation in localization of foreign brands.

Ural Plant, a GAZ Group company, is one of the largest truck manufacturers in Russia. Ural produces all-wheeldrive off-road trucks with wheel formats 4x4, 6x6, 8x8 and payload capacity from 4 to 20 t; the passenger box trucks based on Ural AWD trucks with wheel formats 4x4 and 6x6 (for 22 to 30 passengers), passenger trucks on their platform, equipped with hydraulic manipulators. Ural trucks are the base for building over 200 specialty vehicles: passenger box trucks, cranes, tanks, fuel fillers, fire-fighting trucks, mobile repair trucks, specialty trucks for forestry and oil and gas industry, mining and municipal utilities.

The first ever product engineering department of Nizhny Novgorod automobile plant was established on July 6, 1929. The first head of the so-called Technical Office was Mr. Vladimir Tsipilun. The main task of this department was to verify completeness and to translate engineering documentation for Ford-A and Ford-AA vehicles supposed to be built under license. This happened three months after USSR Supreme Council of National Economy had made a decision to build a powerful automobile plant in Nizhny Novgorod. Four months later, the Technical Office was converted to Technical Department and 10 further engineering units with a total headcount of 226 employees were established.

With the onset of the Great Depression, American sales of automobiles dropped, and US auto companies and other industrial firms curtailed their plans for expansion of plant and capacity. Correspondingly, noted American architect Albert Kahn's roster of domestic commissions languished, and his firm would have suffered were it not for a new venture he began in 1929.

The Soviet Union, through its international commerce arm the Amtorg Trading Corporation, commissioned him to design a giant tractor factory at Chelyabinsk. Kahn was initially reluctant because the United States had still not recognized the Soviet government, many of Kahn's American clients were strongly anti-communist, and the Nazis and anti-semites in the U.S. often accused Jews of being communist sympathizers, a label that thereby might affix to him.

He concluded, however, that the Russian people had long suffered under the czars and were as entitled to benefits deriving from good factory design as anyone. He could contribute in that regard. During the next three years, Kahn and his firm designed several other huge industrial plants inside the Soviet Union, at least one of which was in conjunction with the Ford Motor Company, which was also in a contractual relationship with Amtorg.

Ford agreed to supply the Soviets with plans, specifications, management systems, and technical assistance for the construction at Niznij Novgorod of the Gor'kiy Automobile Factory [GAZ] based on the River Rouge model. Kahn designed the complex. Kahn and his staff not only designed industrial buildings for the Soviets; they also established a branch office in Moscow to help train Russian architects and engineers in the principles of factory design on the Ford/Kahn model. Not surprisingly, Kahn did have to defend himself against accusations in the U.S. that he was supporting the communists, accusations which subsided after his contract with the Soviets ended in 1932.

On November 6, 1930, the Soviet government proudly announced the opening of the new Moskvich automotive plant. The car factory, whose name literary means "Muscovite", was one of the pioneers of the Soviet automotive industry, alongside AMO ZIL. The Soviets invited US professionals from Ford Motor Company to install production facilities and world-renowned assembly lines. The experts from Detroit were keen to conquer the USSR with their highly successful Model A. The new car plant soon stopped producing Ford vehicles and switched to assembling GAZ models at another motor factory in Gorki (now Nizhny Novgorod).

July 1931, the organization structure of the department was finally determined, which included a vehicle design office, an experimental laboratory, an experimental workshop, a translation office, a common blueprinting service and a technical library. Among the tasks and functions to be performed by its employees were: translation of design and engineering documentation, its duplication and distribution, testing of vehicle prototypes, identification of structural weaknesses, elimination of identified shortcomings, improvement of parts and assemblies as well as fabrication of pilot and prototype components and assemblies.

Before November 1930, the Department occupied an office in a cinema-theater in Rozhdestvenskaya street near Volga river. At the end of 1930, the department was relocated to the construction site of Nizhny Novgorod automobile plant.

With the establishment of the Technical Department, Vladimir Tsipilun was appointed the first Chief designer of the Nizhny Novgorod automobile plant. He was a mechanical engineer specialized in automotive technology, a highly experienced professional with an in-depth knowledge of vehicle repair and restoration technologies, who had studied automobile production in Europe and, most importantly, had acquired immense knowledge in practical motor vehicle building during his employment at AMO automobile plant. Vladimir Tsipilun was actively and directly involved in creation of the first ever Soviet truck AMO-F-15 and was managing development of the next model AMO-3. In his capacity as chief designer of the Technical Department, Tsipilun took the lead and charge of processing and adjustment of technical documentation for license-built American Ford-A and Ford-AA vehicles, which were prototypes of the first ever home-made mass production motor vehicles, in order to bring it in line with GAZ manufacturing capabilities as well as peculiar vehicle operation conditions (road and climatic conditions) in the USSR.

Beginning of the mass production demanded from the young and small engineering team immediate and self-reliant solving of many issues. For example, by the beginning of GAZ-AA production there was no tooling for steel cabin in place. Therefore, a wooden cabin had to be developed and designed (senior designers A.Kirillov and Y.Sorochkin). And the platform of that vehicle was made based on the in-house drawings made by designer L.Kostkina.

In January 1932, Nizhny Novgorod Automobile Plant was finally launched; a conveyor assembly of GAZ-AA trucks was started. In December 1932, the plant commenced production of GAZ-A passenger cars. After the plant was launched, Vladimir Tsipilun was transferred to Moscow to take a position of deputy head of the Main Agency of Automobiles and Tractors of the USSR. After that, the Technical Department was headed by V.Danilov, who yet before his transfer to Nizhny Novgorod Automobile Plant had had plenty of engineering experience behind him by that time, working as chief designer and chief engineer at Yaroslavl automobile plant and heading the development (1926) of the first ever Soviet diesel-powered heavy-duty truck Y-3 and being involved in organizing of Y-3, Y-4 and Y-5 trucks production.

Also he had been working for some time at the All-Union Automobile and Tractor Association (VATO) in Moscow, from which he was sent to Nizhny Novgorod. V.Danilov stood at the origins of the GAZ specialty-vehicle design and engineering school. Under his direction, optimization works on the turretless tracked tankette T-27 and the small swimming tank T-37 (with a 40 hp engine and GAZ-AA gearbox), which had been developed by Moscow Tank Plant No 37, were conducted as early as 1932 and 1932 respectively. In 1934, such special-purpose vehicles as airborne cargo-and-personnel pickup track GAZ-4, self-propelled gun GAZ-TK (SU-4), command bus GAZ-03-30 (based on the GAZ-AA chassis) as well as three-axle truck GAZ-AAA were developed under his direction.

In view of large amounts of upcoming design and engineering works aimed at improving performance characteristics of the vehicles, V.Danilov invited from Moscow Mr. Andrey Lipgart a high-skilled, competent and ambitious specialist, who were at the time chief designer of the automobile department at the Scientific Automobile and Tractor Institute. V.Danilov delegated a part of his authorities to Lipgart. A.Lipgart worked in this position for 18 years incl. 11 years (since 1940) as head of the Design and Experimental Department (from then on, all GAZ chief designers also combined their chief designer position with the office of the head of the Design and Experimental Department). Being a highly talented designer and possessing excessive background knowledge and managerial abilities, he managed to create a great creative team of specialists around him. The first steps A.Lipgart made in his capacity as GAZ chief designer were upgrading single components and systems of the existing vehicles as well as developing new types of the vehicles on the basis of the existing ones. After that, development of a new limousine GAZ-M1 (that very famous and well-known to many our countrymen Emka) was started.

At the same time V.Danilov was involved in the development of special-purpose 3-axle wheel chassis GAZ-30 for armored vehicles manufactured by Izhora Mechanical Plant (which was further developed to a special variant of the three-axle army vehicle T-31 in 1938). In 1936, he designed the small amphibian tank GAZ-TM (Molotov tank) for the first time at GAZ. In 1937, he took the lead of development of armored artillery tractor T-20 Komsomolets and three-axle pick-up truck GAZ-21 for the Red Army, whose chassis was also used for light armored reconnaissance vehicle BA-021. During development of the above mentioned special-purpose vehicles, V.Danilov was also supervising development of GAZ-M1 passenger car, GAZ-55 buses, GAZ-60 trucks as well as works for upgrade of existing 4-cylinder engine and development of a new state-of-the-art 6-cylinder high-performance engine.

In 1938, V.Danilov was transferred to the plant management to take an office of deputy chief engineer with a focus on the production of special-purpose vehicles. Acting in that capacity, V.Danilov organized building of prototypes of GAZ-VM wheel-cum-track vehicles (Molotov crawlers) designed by NATI using reinforced GAZ-M1 chassis, which received later on the name GAZ-MS. That chassis was further used to build BA-20M armored vehicles, which took part in the battles of Khasan and Khalkhin Gol as well as in the Finnish campaign and WWII.

At the same time, GAZ-61 all-terrain vehicles, GAZ-M415 pick-ups and GAZ-42, GAZ-44, GAZ-45 trucks and GAZ-05-193 buses were created under the direction of A.Lipgart and with the participation of V.Grachev.

Engineering potential and design experience gained during that period were efficiently implemented during WWII, when civil vehicles designers and engineers had to switch to military products. The first military vehicle manufactured at Gorky Automobile Plant was T-60 a light tank developed by Mytischi Machine-building Plant and then adapted for mass production. Two next tank models T-70 and T-80 as well as the well-known self-propelled gun SU-76, armored vehicle VA-64B, army jeeps GAZ-64 and GAZ-67 were designed by GAZ specialists independently. It should be noted that even in the hardest times, GAZ designers kept on developing GAZ-M20 passenger cars (to be later named Pobeda:) and GAZ-51 two-tonner trucks (launched in 1946) in parallel with military product development.

It is noteworthy that GAZ design department was the only product design and engineering team till mid '00s, which was involved in developing serial trucks and passenger cars as well as special-purpose mass-production military vehicles at the same time. Based on GAZ-51 platform, the all-terrain vehicle GAZ-63 was built. For countrys warm regions, a convertible variant of GAZ-M20 "Pobeda has been developed and launched in 1949. The final touch to the post-war product range was development and launch of production of GAZ-12 ZIM passenger cars in 1950 (two further variants of the car - a convertible and an ambulance were launched in 1951), which featured an unique combination of unibody multiseater design with comfort and ingenious external appearance, as well as development of jeep-like off-road vehicle GAZ-69 that further successfully replaced GAZ-67.

The post-war GAZ vehicle generation generally featured rationality and adaptability to manufacture due to high level of communization of their parts and assembly units. Good combination of their exterior shapes contributed to their unique external appearance and formed the features of GAZ style that was also adopted by the next generations of GAZ vehicles: compactness, lightness, simplicity and clarity of logically and functionally designed inner spaces and minimum required level of decorative finish.

Successfully mastering of new vehicle designs as well as their production and operation has proven professional maturity of GAZ design team headed by A.Lipgart.

In 1951, A.Lipgart was transferred to the position of deputy chief designer for advanced projects, while the former chief designer for trucks Lev Kostkin was appointed chief designer. During that time, they were in charge of design refinement of GAZ-69, GAZ-69A, GAZ-47 crawler and GAZ-46 amphibian vehicle.

In 1952, A.Lipgart and L.Kostkin were relieved from their offices by decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Following that, N.Borisov was appointed GAZ chief designer. During his term of office, the following vehicle models were developed, upgraded and put into production: GAZ-51A, GAZ-63A, GAZ-M72, GAZ-21 Volga, GAZ-22 (station wagon and ambulance), GAZ-40, GAZ-47, GAZ-46, GAZ-69 and GAZ-69A.GAZ-51P saddle truck was put into production and development of a new saddle truck GAZ-63P was started. Also, a lot of pilot vehicles was created during that time: GAZ-19, GAZ-19A, GAZ-54, GAZ-M73, GAZ-18, GAZ-62, GAZ-62B, GAZ-48. All that allowed GAZ to lay the groundwork for future design works.

The history of the legendary 'Volga' brand began in October 1956, when the Gorky Automotive Plant (GAZ) began production of something revolutionary for the Soviet automotive industry a dependable, rugged, durable, and comfortable executive-class car with styling cues in line with leading US and European automotive designs. The GAZ-21 Volga, produced from 1956 to 1970, gained popularity among Soviet executives, taxi drivers, the security services, and drivers in over 70 countries worldwide. Nearly 640,000 GAZ-21s in multiple incarnations were produced over the car's three series. This included production of a GAZ-22, a station wagon version of the vehicle.

Following the success of the GAZ-21, GAZ introduced the second generation of Volgas, the GAZ-24, in 1970, with production of these models continuing until 1992. While less iconic than the GAZ-21, and considered to have fallen behind global automotive trends during its production, the GAZ-24 too has its own cult following, particularly given its association with the 'Golden 70s', a period of peace and relative stability in the late Soviet era which many Russians look back on with nostalgia. Numerous versions of the car, including government sedans, taxicabs, station wagons and ambulances, were also produced; both sedans and wagons were exported to Western Europe, where they were assembled in Belgium by Scaldia-Volga.

The fundamental tasks of 1963 were directed towards the fullest possible satisfaction of the needs of tile national economy for all types of transportation, In addition to work of creating large-capacity truck trains, a most important place in the 1963 plan was devoted in this connection towards measures of increasing the load capacity of Gor'kiy Motor Vehicle Plant vehicles, and towards the creation of a three-axle vehicle with a 6x4 wheel formula and an eight ton load capacity for use by the national economy, and of a saddle prime-mover on the same base for operation with a semi-trailer with up to 19 tons total weight, at the Moscow Motor Vehicle Plant imeni Likhachev [ZIL].

The Odessa Motor Vehicle Assembly Plant was working on the creation of a semi-trailer/van with a 15 ton capacity for this vehicle. In accordance with the plan, the Gor'kiy Motor Vehicle Plant had in 1962 begun the production of the transitional 3.5 ton capacity GAZ-53F truck model. The production of this vehicle continued in 1963. With the start of production of the new V-type engine at the Zevolzh'ye Engine Plant, and with the introduction into production of a new rear end at the Gor'kiy Motor Vehicle Plant, the load capacity of the GAZ-53 vehicle will be increased to four tons regardless of the type of road. The first industrial batch of GAZ-58 trucks, numbering several thousand, were produced in 1963. A further development of this vehicle will be the GAZ-54 truck, which will have the same load capacity, but a more powerful engine and other boosted assemblies, permitting it to tow a trailer with a four ton load capacity (and a total weight of 6.2 tons). Plant tests of this vehicle began in 1963.

In 1958, N.Borisov was appointed GAZ chief engineer, while the office of chief designer was taken by D.Prosvirin, who had previously worked as chief designer for trucks. He was in charge of the plants design engineering team for 29 years until he retired in 1987. During his term of office, the large-class passenger vehicle GAZ-13 Chayka (meant to replace GAZ-12 ZIM) as well as GAZ-13B (phaeton) were developed. The Chaika ["seagull"] was arguably the most beautiful car that was ever made in the Soviet Union. The Gaz-13 was a big, luxury-class car, albeit a step down from a limousine. Chaikas were available only to top Soviet government officials and couldn't be purchased by mere citizens. The only exception for common people was that they had the chance to ride in a Chaika during weddings, as the government allowed citizens to rent Chaikas for their marriage ceremonies. The car was produced between 1959 and 1981.

The GAZ-63P - saddle truck was designed based on GAZ-63 platform. Also, the station wagon and ambulance vehicles were upgraded. New vehicle variants GAZ-22V and GAZ-22D were developed. The third generation of GAZ trucks was created: GAZ-66, GAZ-53, GAZ-52-04, GAZ-53A.

During this period, GAZ started works to create a new medium-class passenger car - GAZ-24 Volga, which was finally mastered and put into production in 1970 to replace the first generation GAZ-21 Volga. The new generation Volga featured elegant external appearance, advanced dynamic performance, more roomy and comfortable interior, structural safety and steering behavior. High robustness of body and chassis of GAZ-24 made this vehicle irreplaceable for taxi service operation as well as for development of the vehicles cargo and passenger variant with station wagon body - GAZ-24-02 and ambulance vehicle - GAZ-24-03. Also, large-class vehicle GAZ-14 Chayka and its parade version GAZ-14-05 as well as luxury version of GAZ-3102 Volga were developed. A.Prosvirnin contributed greatly to the dieselization of Gorky automobile plant, who was involved in development of the Russian first medium-sized air-cooled diesel engine and production launch of GAZ-4301 truck equipped with this engine. Along with it, the works for development of new two-axle off-road truck GAZ-3301 with air-cooled diesel GAZ-3301 as well as four-axle amphibian off-road vehicle GAZ-44 with KAMAZ engine were carried out. Also, A.Prosvirnin was engaged in development of design of a brand new all-wheel drive passenger car family (GAZ-3105, GAZ-3104 and GAZ-3103).

Also under the heading of A.Prosvirnin, GAZ engineering team developed, tested and mastered following vehicles: four-axle armored personnel carriers BTR-60 and BTR-70, two-axle armored reconnaissance vehicles GAZ-41 as well as tracked vehicles GAZ-71, GAZ-73, GAZ-3402, GAZ-3403, which were put into military service of USSR army and armies of Warsaw pact countries.

Another great achievement of A.Prosvirnin was the extension of the available research and development infrastructure, erection of new building, outfitting the plants testing facilities with up-to-date equipment and construction of proving ground.

It is said that every Soviet man, woman and child wanted to ride in a Volga, as the car was the dream of every Soviet citizen and considered a symbol of wealth, prosperity and high status. Despite having the money to buy a Volga, many average Soviet citizens couldn't drive their dream, because following their manufacture, many Volga cars were sent straight to government bodies, taxi companies and exported overseas. The Volga was produced in several models, the most popular were sedans and wagons.

The last Soviet generation of Volgas, the GAZ-3102, began production in the 1980s, and was effectively a facelift and modernization of the GAZ-24 platform, featuring new engine options, new styling cues, and other improvements. GAZ-3102-derived press forms would continue to be used to assemble light cars until 2008, with several more restylings made to form several more derivatives (including the GAZ-31029, the GAZ-3110 and the GAZ-31105). By the 2000s, the age of the platform, quality control issues, and the wide-scale import of luxury cars from abroad had taken some of the shine off of the formerly exclusive Russian vehicle, and production of the Volga was stopped in 2008.

Although plans had been on the drawing board for some time to modernize the Gorkiy Motor Vehicle Plant (GAZ)- whose medium-sized trucks comprise two-thirds of the agricultural truck fleet - by the 1980s implementation lagged behind other higher priority automotive projects such as the huge Kama River truck and Volga automobile plants and the modernization of other existing truck factories such as the ZIL plant. All these projects were primarily intended for non-agricultural truck production.

In 1986, the plants R&D Center was established. Igor Mukhin was appointed GAZ first deputy general director and R&D center director. Following the appointment, he engaged actively in works and activities for development of business-class passenger car GAZ-3105 Volga. The first vehicle samples were built within the shortest possible time and presented in the Kremlin, as it was common those days, to the members of the Politbureau and personally to M.Gorbachov. A little later, a new 1,5-tonner truck family (which was later named GAZelle) was started. Mukhin died in 1988 of an incurable disease. After that, GAZ structure was re-organizied and the R&D Center was abolished and replaced by a structural unit called UKER (Design & Experimental Works Directorate).

Following that, Y. Kudryavtsev was appointed GAZ chief designer and UKER chief. Among the trucks, which were developed under his term of office in his above capacity, were light commercial vehicles GAZ-3302 "GAZelle" and GAZ-22171 "Sobol", which enjoyed a high demand on the countrys emerging small business market. The design concept proposed by Y. Kudryavtsev was restricted by 1,5 t. load capacity, thus allowing the company to use the main transmission units and assemblies, which had been originally developed for GAZ-3110 passenger cars, and to speed up the development and pre-production of "GAZelle" vehicles as well as "Sobol" vehicles.

Medium-duty trucks also got their further development during that period. GAZ-66 was substituted by all-wheel drive truck GAZ-33081 "Sadko". Also, urban commercial vehicle GAZ-3310 "Valdai" was designed, manufactured and tested those days. At the same time, "GAZelle" vehicles were built in numerous versions and configurations, "Sadko" vehicles got their further development in "Eger" and "Vepr" versions (GAZ-330811. Based on Valdai platform, some crew cab versions as well as 36-seated urban buses were manufactured.

In the area of passenger car development, the design of brand-new GAZ-3105 "Volga" with all-wheel drive and GAZ-3104 4x4 was refined and fine-tuned in this period. At the same time, totally new passenger car GAZ-3111 "Volga" in its original version was developed, which was intended to be equipped with import components. But its mass production was interfered by the default of 1998. As a result, the design of the car was "simplified" to use existing in-house components and assemblies. And its production was limited to several hundreds of cars.

In the sphere of serial vehicle production, it is the merit of Y. Kudryavtsev, who managed to bring back to life the projects multipurpose vehicle GAZ-3937 and module-type vehicle "Vodnik", which had been "frozen" a few years earlier. Following a number of additional works and acceptance tests, engineering and design documentation for these vehicles was finally approved in 1998, and the vehicles were passed into military service seven years later. His another major achievement in this field was development of multi-purpose off-road vehicle "Tiger".

Also, the following specialty and special-purpose vehicles were developed during his term of office: armored personnel carrier GAZ-5923 Rostok, crawler GAZ-3409 Bobr, articulated amphibian vehicle GAZ-3340 as well as a variety of conversion purpose vehicles: SIAM, Vetluga, ML-104, GAZ-8017.

Under the direction of V. Kudryavtsev, dieselization of GAZ gained further momentum: development of self-designed 4-cylinder diesel engine with air cooling GAZ-544, adaptation of design of passenger cars as well as that of small and medium trucks for installation of Steyr diesel engines, adaptation of all currently manufactured medium trucks and tracked vehicles for installation of Belorussian diesels D-245.7, preparation of GAZ vehicles for installation of diesel engines from Cummins, YaMZ, Iveco, Toyota and others. Diesel engines started to be used for equipment of GAZ serial vehicles.

In 2001, V. Kudryavtsev was appointed advisor to the General Director of the plant, while V. Chetverikov, who had previously worked as chief designer for trucks, became chief designer of the plant. In 2010, he became the head of GAZ Group Unified Engineering Center. With his active participation, "GAZelle" and "Sobol" LCV family were restyled and upgraded. In 2002, these vehicle families started to be equipped with Steyr GAZ-5601 turbocharged diesel engines as well as with ZMZ-40522 gasoline engines with direct fuel injection to meet international emission standards. In 2003, "GAZelle" and "Sobol" families underwent the facelifting and were equipped with upgraded interior.

Also, a "Sobol" 2x2 variant was introduced. In 2004, a long-base "GAZelle" and a crew cab "GAZelle" were mastered. Also, right hand-drive "GAZelle" and "Sobol" versions, passenger car "Volga" (GAZ-31105), special purpose vehicles Vepr and Tigr (GAZ-2330 and GAZ-233014), "Vodnik" (GAZ-393771) as well as cross-country vehicle GAZ-3106, D-class vehicle GAZ-3115 and new armored personnel carrier GAZ-4120 were developed.

Further development of the Russian market as well as free competition with leading international automakers dictated the necessity of significant improvement of products, processes and overall quality as early as at the design stage. Realizing this, the management of "GAZ Group" that includes the Gorky Automobile Plant, initiated the establishment of its own product development quality system. Today, the product development is accompanied by in-parallel manufacturability analysis, choice of optimum process approaches and in-depth calculation taking into account the investments needed as well as production costs, with full focus on the needs of consumers.

During the financial crisis in 2008-2009, the main focus was made on GAZelle. According to new approaches for product development, weaknesses of the existing vehicle were studied and a program for upgrade of GAZelle and Sobol vehicle range called "GAZelle Business" and "Sobol Business" was developed. The task was to improve consumer values, quality and reliability of the major units of the vehicle. At the same time, the vehicle variants with Cummins diesel engines were developed. This model upgrade resulted in a sharp increase in demand.

In 2009, GAZelle NEXT project was launched. The aim of the project was to develop a completely new LCV line to be competitive in the modern market conditions, both nationally and internationally. The vast experience of UEC team allowed it to develop the new light commercial vehicle combining the best features of existing "GAZelle" with innovative solutions in the shortest possible time. Already at the prototype stage, the new vehicle was highly appraised by European partners, who were in charge of prototype testing. "GAZelle NEXT has become the basis for creating a wide range of light-duty trucks and buses.

GAZ employed 115,000 personnel [as of 2009] at its production facility in Nizhniy Novgorod (population 1.3 million). The company makes the GAZelle (an all-purpose delivery truck), has just launched the Volga Siber (a sedan that is similar to the discontinued Chrysler Sebring and is produced using old technology purchased from Chrysler), and also produces a few other light truck models.

The company is owned by billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has already received about $4.5 billion in Government of Russia bailouts to aid his struggling metals businesses and to pay off his foreign creditors. Despite the overall strong demand for cars in Russia in 2008, GAZ's sales fell 25% in 2008 compared to 2007. GAZ is viewed as the most heavily indebted of Russia's auto makers, with at least $1.3 billion in debts, much of it reportedly in the form of short-term external borrowings that are due in mid-2009.

Some press reports in January 2009 indicated that GAZ would have to lay off at least 25,000 workers if it were unable to secure Government of Russia assistance. The company had temporarily gone to shorter work weeks and idled some production lines.

On 04 February 2009, the Government of Russia Anti-Crisis Committee chaired by First Deputy PM Shuvalov met to discuss how to assist GAZ through the crisis. The committee reportedly considered several options, including a restructuring of GAZ's debt, a Government of Russia guarantee of the company's bank loans, bonds and commercial paper, or a Government of Russia takeover of the company through a quasi-bankruptcy reorganization (while Russian bankruptcy law technically only allows for liquidations, the committee reportedly discussed a procedure that would be akin to a U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization). Some committee participants told the press that GAZ would receive the lion's share of government procurements of Russian cars in 2009. The committee charged the Ministry of Economic Development with preparing a package of Government of Russia support measures for GAZ by the beginning of March.

Russia's GAZ Group, the Nizhny Novgorod-based automotive conglomerate known for their production of a variety of heavy and light trucks, commercial vans, buses, and military vehicles, is considering bringing back the Volga brand, widely remembered in Russia and the post-Soviet space as a legend of Soviet executive class cars. In an interview for Russian business daily Vedomosti published 27 Marach 2017, Siegfried Wolf, chairman of Russian Machines Corporation, GAZ Group's parent company, revealed that the Volga brand may return following almost a decade-long hiatus, albeit now in a different class.

Russian Machines lacks a mid-sized class of transport haulers, Wolf told the paper. "I call it a transporter a car that would be smaller than the GAZelle" (a popular series of Russian commercial vehicles, pickup trucks, vans and minibuses)," he said. "Like the Volkswagen Caddy, for example." The latter are produced in both two seater cargo and five-seven passenger variants. The attraction of the Volga brand, according to Wolf, comes from its solid reputation. The brand, created over 60 years ago, is associated with "serious, dependable production," the company official noted.




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