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Lada


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(established 1966)

This Russian automobile manufacturing company has been one of the best known outside Eastern Europe since commencing car production. Those models that have been exported to the West have generally been characterized by basic levels of technology and conventional styling. However, in parallel with other fields of design practice Lada designers have explored more imaginative design ideas and possibilities through prototypes that have had neither the finance nor consumer markets to make them realities. Following a governmental decree in 1966 construction was begun on the VAZ works, a new automotive factory, and within two years 100,000 cars were constructed. The best‐selling model in Russia for more than three decades was the Zhiguli, a Russian version of the Fiat 124. Introduced in 1970 it was very much a ‘people's car’, produced with a range of engine sizes and models, but more attractive on account of price than innovative design or performance. Other models were worked on but never put into production, including the Cheburashka hatchback of 1971, which revealed many similarities to the Honda N‐600. Early in Lada's life it also produced a Sports‐Utility off‐road vehicle, the Niva, the chief designer for which was Valery Semushkine with the overall project managed by Vladimir Solov'eva. Prototypes dated from the early 1970s with the first version put into production in 1976. A number of modifications were made over succeeding decades, particularly in the 1990s. In 1984 Lada introduced the Samara, its first front‐wheel drive car, and achieved modest sales in western Europe. Three years later the company launched the Oka‐1111 city car in collaboration with Fiat. The engine apart, there were a number of similarities with the Fiat Cinquecento. However, it never achieved significant success as it proved too small and basic even for the Russian domestic market. Its planned replacement, the Karat, was seen in prototype at the Geneva Motor Show in 2000. At this time the company experimented with other progressive ideas for urban transportation including electric vehicles and microcars such as the Gnom or Elfi.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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