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Automotive industry in the Soviet Union

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Title: Automotive industry in the Soviet Union  
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Subject: Automotive industry by country, Lists of automobile-related articles, Automotive industry, Automotive industry in Ukraine, Soviet automobiles
Collection: Automotive Industry by Country, Economy of the Soviet Union, Soviet Automobiles
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Automotive industry in the Soviet Union

The automotive industry in the Soviet Union spanned the history of the state from 1929 to 1991. It began with assistance from Western manufacturers, and continued until the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991. Before its dissolution, the Soviet Union produced 2.1-2.3 million units per year of all types, and was the sixth (previously fifth) largest automotive producer, ranking ninth place in cars, third in trucks, and first in buses.


  • History 1
  • Post-1991 2
  • Historical production by year 3
  • Soviet and post-Soviet automotive manufacturers 4
    • Armenia 4.1
    • Azerbaijan 4.2
    • Belarus 4.3
    • Estonia 4.4
    • Georgia 4.5
    • Kazakhstan 4.6
    • Kyrgyzstan 4.7
    • Latvia 4.8
    • Lithuania 4.9
    • Russia 4.10
    • Tajikistan 4.11
    • Ukraine 4.12
      • Cars 4.12.1
      • Buses (cities, regional, others) 4.12.2
      • Trucks 4.12.3
      • Others 4.12.4
    • Uzbekistan 4.13
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Tsarist Russia produced small numbers of Russo-Balt, Puzyryov, Freze, Lessner, and other vehicles. After the 1917 October Revolution, Prombron built small quantities of Russo-Balt cars while AMO (modified as ZIS and then ZIL later) plant produced the first Soviet trucks, based on a FIAT design.

The oldest Soviet mass automaker, GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, Gorky Automobile Factory), was established in Nizhny Novgorod in 1929 by Ford. A year later Ford built a second automobile plant in Moscow, AZLK, which became a major Soviet car maker after World War II.

Unlike other automakers, due to specific government aims, in the early years of Soviet production, cars were only a small share of all vehicles produced. At the beginning of the 1960s, Soviet industry opted to design and launch a car for the masses. For cost efficiency, it was decided to base the car upon an existing, modern car, and the Soviet leadership turned to the West seeking technical assistance. Several options were considered, including (among others) Volkswagen and Ford. The Fiat 124 was chosen because of its simple and sturdy design, being easy to manufacture and repair. The plant was built in just 4 years (1966–1970) in the small town of Stavropol Volzhsky, which later grew to a population of more than half a million and was renamed Togliatti to commemorate Palmiro Togliatti. At the same time, the Izhmash car plant was built in the city of Izhevsk, with assistance from Renault, to produce AZLK Moskvitchs and Moskvitch-based combis. Kamaz, Europe's largest heavy truck plant, was built in Naberezhnye Chelny with American and German aid, while GAZ, ZIL, UralAZ, KrAZ, MAZ, BelAZ, and plants continued to produce other types of trucks.

By the early 1980s, Soviet automobile industry consisted of several main plants, which produced vehicles for various market segments:

  • AZLK (Автомобильный завод имени Ленинского Комсомола): originally part of GAZ, built cars of similar class as VAZ but produced significantly less (up to 200,000) domestic designed advanced (but easier to service and repair) Moskvitchs
  • BAZ: manufacturer of superheavy trucks
  • BelAZ: manufacturer of superheavy trucks
  • ErAZ: produced panel vans based RAF minibuses (see below)
  • GAZ: produced light trucks and domestic designed Volga business-class sedans and Chaika luxury automobile for Soviet officials (up to 100,000)
  • Izhmash: another manufacturer with Moskvitch family cars in the same volumes (up to 200,000)
  • Kamaz: manufacturer of heavy trucks
  • KAvZ: manufacturer conventional small buses on the basis of GAZ trucks, used as company vehicles and for passenger transport in the countryside on roads of poor quality.
  • KAZ: produced backbone tractors, is a comfortable cabin, but low quality and dynamic characteristics and had gained in the Soviet Union a bad reputation. Were gradually replaced by tractors MAZ and, later, Kamaz
  • KrAZ: manufacturer of heavy trucks
  • LAZ: produced suburban and intercity buses of middle class.
  • LiAZ (not to be confused with the Czechoslovak brand trucks LIAZ): manufacturer of large city buses.
  • LuAZ: produced compact four-wheel-drive vehicles (few thousands only)
  • MAZ (Минский автомобильный завод, Minsk Automobile Factory): manufacturer of heavy trucks
  • MZKT: in Soviet times, was a division of MAZ, manufacturer of heavy and super heavy trucks
  • PAZ: manufacturer of small buses
  • RAF: produced vans and ambulances on their base
  • UAZ: produced light four-wheel-drive vehicles for the army mainly
  • UralAZ: manufacturer of all-wheel-drive trucks
  • VAZ: produced up to 700,000 annually the licensed copy of Fiat 124 and other Zhiguli (export brand Lada) models based on it, plus Niva light four-wheel-drive car
  • ZAZ: manufacturer of Zaporozhets small cheap cars (as many as 150,000)
  • ZIL: manufacturer of middle trucks and exclusive limousines for the Communist party elite
  • ZiU: manufacturer trolleybuses

The bulk of the automotive industry of the Soviet Union, with annual production approaching 1.8 million units, was located in Russian SFSR. Ukrainian SSR was second, at more than 200,000 units per year, Belorussian SSR was third at 40,000. Other Soviet republics (SSRs) did not have significant automotive industries. Only the first two republics produced all types of automobiles.

With the exception of ZAZ and LuAZ, which were located in the Ukrainian SSR, all the aforementioned companies were located in the RSFSR. Besides the RSFSR, some truck plants were established in Ukrainian, Belorussian, Georgian, Armenian, and Kyrgizian SSRs while buses were produced in the Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Tajik SSRs.

Domestic car production satisfied only 45% of the domestic demand; nevertheless, no import of cars was permitted.[1] There were queues for the purchase of cars, domestic buyers often had to wait years because export had first priority. In the 1970s passenger cars made by VAZ (Lada) and GAZ (Volga) were the most in demand. Volgas were the most prestigious vehicles sold to private buyers, although up to 60% of the production was reserved for state and party institutions. Also available for sale were Moskvitch and Zaporozhets cars, as well as compact four-wheel-drive LuAZ vehicles. All-terrain cars made by UAZ were not available privately, but could be bought decomissioned. Limousine brands Chaika (GAZ factory) and ZIL were not available for the general public. Prior to 1988 private buyers were also not allowed to buy commercial vehicles like minibuses, vans, trucks or buses. Soviet industry exported 300,000-400,000 cars annually, mainly to Soviet Union stallite countries. Quality of production was variable, but often not worse than comparable western cars. There were substantial numbers of highway trucks (Volvo, MAN from capitalist countries; LIAZ, Csepel and IFA from socialist countries) in some quantities, construction trucks (Magirus-Deutz, Tatra), delivery trucks (Robur and Avia) and urban, intercity and tourist buses (Ikarus, Karosa) imported as well.


After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became hard for Russian/Ukrainian automakers to compete due to the perceived low quality of their own products and competitive foreign imports. Some automakers, like AvtoVAZ, turned to collaborations with other companies (such as GM-AvtoVAZ) in order to keep their factories running. Others, like AZLK, became dormant, while still others still build the old Soviet-era models. There are special cases, like ZAZ, which have transformed themselves into new companies - in ZAZ's case they are now known as UkrAVTO.

Despite remaining strong on its home market, Lada had withdrawn from many export markets, namely the European Union member states, by the late 1990s as its model range failed to meet emissions requirements, and sales had been declining for several years, not helped by the fact that all of its models were at least a decade old. It had enjoyed a strong presence in the United Kingdom, selling more than 30,000 units a year at its peak in the late 1980s, only to dwindle away to a fraction of that level by 1996. It was still producing the Fiat-derived Riva saloons and estates by this stage, after some 30 years (the 2107 was actually produced until 2012), although it had entered the modern hatchback market in the mid 1980s with the Samara, and since the late 1970s had produced the Niva four-wheel drive. It made another attempt at a modern car in 1996 with the 2110, which was similar in size to the Riva but made use of all-new bodyshell and a new range of mechanicals.

In later years Lada is again exported, mainly the all terrain car Niva but also van editions of the Granta are exported to countries like Germany and Sweden.

Historical production by year

Year Production of
vehicles total
Production of
1940 145,400 5,500
1945 74,700 5,000
1947 133,000 9,600
1950 362,900 64,600
1955 445,300 107,800
1958 511,100 122,200
1960 523,600 138,800
1965 616,300 201,200
1970 916,000 344,300
1975 1,963,900 1,201,200
1980 2,199,000 1,327,000
1985 2,247,500 1,332,300
1990 2,039,600 1,260,200

Soviet and post-Soviet automotive manufacturers


  • ErAZ (1964–2002)





  • KAZ (1945–present, truck production ceased in the 1990s)





  • KAG (1956–1979)





  • Ukrainian Automobile Corporation (1990–present), based on "Avtoservis", Ukrainian leasing production association
  • Atoll Holding (1993–present)
  • AIS Corporation
    • KrASZ (1995–present) (Science-experimental Mechanical Plant, Kremenchuk)
    • Chasiv Yar Repair Plant (1958–present)

Buses (cities, regional, others)

  • Bogdan Corporation (2005–present)
    • Cherkaskyi Avtobus (1999–present), based on the Cherkasy Auto Repair Plant (1969-1999)
    • LuAZ (1955–present)
  • AIS Corporation
    • KrASZ (1995–present) (Science-experimental Mechanical Plant, Kremenchuk)
    • Chasiv Yar Repair Plant (1958–present)
  • City Transport Group
    • LAZ (1945–present)
    • Dnipro Autobus Plant (2001–present), based on the Dniprodzerzhynsk Auto Repair Plant (1965-2001)
    • Mykolaiv Machine-building Plant (2004–present), based on the Ship Machine-building Plant (1955-2004) and Project Development Center
    • Stryi-Auto (1976-2003)
  • Etalon Corporation (2002–present)
    • BAZ (2002–present)
    • ChAZ (2003–present) based on the bankrupted Chernihiv Auto Part
    • Stryi-Auto Stryi (2005–present) in 2009 absorbed HalAZ (2005-2009)
  • Anto-Rus Kherson (2001–present)
  • Avtotechnologhiya, Rivne (2000–present), based on a private auto repair shop
  • Dobrota-Avto Drohobych (2002-present)


  • AvtoKrAZ (1976–present)
    • KrAZ Kremenchuk (1958–present) (truck production of the Yaroslavl Motor Plant at Kremenchuk Harvester Plant)
  • OdAZ Odesa


  •  British Virgin Islands Capital Index Group
    • Kyiv Motorcycle Plant (1945–present), based on the 8th Armored Repair Plant
  • Lviv Moto Plant (1939-1998), based on the Lwowski zakład Metal (1919-1939)


See also


  1. ^ Begley, Jason; Collis, Clive; Morris, David. "THE RUSSIAN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY AND FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT" (PDF). Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration. 

External links

  • GM-AvtoVAZ
  • AvtoVAZ
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