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Lada could make a UK comeback

Lada cars could make a return to the UK on the back of a new range of modern cars still under development, so it will not be any time soon.

The Russian cars have not been in the UK since 1996 when the Riva saloon, Samara hatchback and Niva 4x4 were phased out.

The Riva, based on an ancient Fiat, dates back to the factory's beginning in 1966 and, amazingly, is still being made and is now called the Lada Classic.

The Samara is also still being turned out at the Lada parent company AvtoVAZ plant in Togliatti, 1,000kms south east of Moscow.

The Niva is now made under a joint venture with General Motors in Togliatti and wears a Chevrolet badge. There are also a couple of other more modern cars, the Kalina and the Priora which are made in hatch, saloon and estate form.

Earlier this year, however, Renault, with an eye on the fast-growing Russian market, took a 25% stake in AvtoVAZ and is helping the Russians develop new cars.

One, the Lada 2116, looks ready for production, but the reality is still a long way off, waiting for the construction of a new line at the factory to build Renault 1.4- and 1.6-litre engines under licence.

This platform, developed by AvtoVAZ, will also carry a 4x4 crossover vehicle which is under development.

When will the 2116 go into production?

"Not soon enough," says chief operating officer Yann Vincent, a former Renault purchasing chief shipped in to head up the factory business. First up, however, will be an all-new MPV developed off the platform of the Dacia Logan, another affiliate of the French company.

AvtoVAZ also has a licence to use this platform and according to the company's new head of design, Brit Anthony Grade, an all new body look has already been signed off. Again, production details await the arrival of the new engines.

The AvtoVAZ business is also being overhauled.

Company president Boris Aleshin says some non-core business will be sold off and the vast 105,000 workforce trimmed by up to 25,000, many of whom will work for newly formed independent businesses.

The company's business portfolio includes vehicle components, plastics moulding and even hotels, construction and recreational facilities.

Aleshin said: "Our focus will be on design, development, assembly, sales, service and financial services.

"We will look to divest some of the other business areas and they will have to seek their own investors or mergers."

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