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The Russian automobile industry has new a challenge to rise to. Ever since President Vladimir Putin declared in April this year that all "state and municipal government agencies ... should in witnessed a heated debate over the realistic possibility of producing executive vehicles in Russia. While many are convinced that the country can tackle the challenge and produce limousines for the government body, others believe this is a waste of government funds and cannot be achieved without foreign assistance.
The iconic Soviet ZiL and GAZ limousines have been out of business for more than 20 years. The question now remains, can Russia build equally enviable and cost-effective limousines for government use on its own?
Oleg Datskiv, the director of auto-dealer.ru, told Interfax: "Without involving foreign automakers it is currently unrealistic to implement the project to build limousines in Russia. Producing limousines was necessary during the time of the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. Why do this? It will break down and malfunction like before.”
Many, like Datskiv, are convinced it would be better to buy automobiles from foreign experts like Germany. Not only would these vehicles be sturdy and guarantee longevity due to the maker's expertise, these would in all probability be a cheaper option that producing Russia's own executive cars.
Domestic limousine production would not only be an expensive item on Russia's agenda but would also be labour intensive. Sergey Udalov, the executive director of the Avtostat agency, said: "The development of a design from scratch…and setting up serial production is a very labour intensive and expensive project. If we're talking about production of executive cars in Russia, then this is possible with the participation of global automakers... With a joint approach such a project is realistic.”
It remains to be seen if Russia can successfully launch its own limo production business. It is fair to say that it would involve a lot of training, hard work and patience to match up to the standards set by established automobile powerhouses such as the brand the president rides in - an armoured Mercedes S600 Guard Pullman estimated at US$1 million.