Question: “Why do Russian-made cars have rear window defrosters?”
Answer: “To keep your hands warm when you’re pushing it.”
Yes, it’s an old joke about the Russian automobile industry. I have personally owned the LADA produced 6, 9, 10, 12, and 15 models, as well as the UAZ Patriot (UAZ, incidentally, is pronounced “Ooh-aahs” to represent the sounds your passengers will make when you are off-roading).
I owned all of these cars when I lived in the city of Perm. The basic philosophy was “you will have to fix it more often, but parts are cheap and easy to come by,” as opposed to foreign-made cars that would routinely require a two-week wait for the necessary parts.
But due to the lack of reliability of domestically produced cars, the government introduced a high import tax some years ago to discourage purchases of foreign-made cars. I was shocked both at the size of the tax and also how my Russian friends seemed to ignore the tax proving their profound distaste for Russian-made automobiles.
It was often a mystery to me why the nation full of hard-working people who had put the first man into outer space was seemingly unable to manufacture a dependable car at a reasonable cost.
Perhaps Russia’s largest car manufacturer was asking itself the same question, and that is why it decided to bring in a Swede as president of the automobile concern.
LADA certainly had its work cut out for it, building a reputation in its own homeland, with the likes of Toyota and BMW breathing down its neck.
Enter my friend Alex Agoureev. There are very few people that I don’t get tired of listening to, and Alex is one of them. His stories of living in the United States as a TASS news agency journalist in the 1990’s and being followed around by the FBI are fantastic. Perhaps the Bureau was unaware that the Soviet Union had collapsed, or put a tail on Alex simply because they didn’t believe that Russia had changed. And his series of articles (in Russian) entitled Americans Aren’t Dumb and Americans Aren’t Dumb 2 (I make an appearance in the latter version) exhibit an uncanny and unique understanding of both Russian and American culture.
So, after his gig in the States, Alex found himself approached by LADA to assist them with building brand reputation. And Alex went to work. Of course, this included showing a Test-Drive of LADA Kalina’s Cross Version:
I had to ask Alex if the lady in the test drive was chosen because of her knowledge of mechanics.
It was important to not only show a new dedication to quality, but also remind Russians of their patriotic roots.
The backdrop of this scenario was LADA’s new Swedish CEO, and part of Alex’s job was to help the CEO understand Russia, but also help this historic Russian factory understand its foreign leader and his style, one that was unusual for many in Russia.
In this video, the news reports on how the Swedish chief’s work ethic is producing results:
When I lived in the city of Perm, Russia, there were many LADA’s. When I moved to Moscow, I saw almost none. But that is changing. There are more and more, and I haven’t heard a disparaging word about LADA in years, which is quite remarkable.
In short, LADA has a long way to go, but it is again becoming a serious player in the world of automobiles in Russia.
It was an exciting and successful few years for Alex at LADA, and together with his Swedish chief, they produced remarkable results.
I came in contact with Alex a few month’s ago. And it was recently I learned that he is looking to provide public relations service for a multi-national company in Russia. I found that interesting, since I want to promote a business book that I recently completed in Russian. I told Alex about this, and within 20 minutes I had spoken with 5 or 6 producers of business programs on national TV channels who understood what I was looking for and were seriously interested in working with me. So, I am happy to recommend someone that I have firsthand experience with.
Since I find the content that Alex produces to be consistently fascinating, I am waiting in anticipation of where his next LADA will be. Because the company that is serious about getting its message out to the Russian people should give serious thought to harnessing the creativity and knowhow of Alex Agoureev. Want to get your story out to Russia- contact Alex? And since Facebook is now Russia’s LinkedIn, you can connect with Alex here.
It’s probably Alex’s fault that recently thoughts keeps occurring to me that maybe it’s time to go back and visit a LADA dealership. This time, of course, I expect to be able to warm my hands somewhere other than on the rear window.