Lada is the trademark of AvtoVAZ, a Russian car manufacturer in Togliatti, (Samara Oblast or province). The name replaced the original Zhiguli brand, because of phonetic resemblance of Zhiguli to Gigolo, which hampered exports. Though in Sweden, the early models were sold under the name "VAZ" because lada is the swedish word for "barn". Lada made its name in Western Europe selling the Fiat 124-based VAZ-2101 and its many derivatives as an economy car in large quantities during the 1980s.
The common Lada sedan/estate, sometimes known as the Classic in the west (Signet in Canada), was partly based on the 1966 Fiat 124 sedan, and has become one of the most successful cars in history. The keys to its success were: competitive price as an export, simple DIY friendly mechanics. Since 1980 over 13.5 million Ladas have been badged as 'Rivas', (re-styled to resemble the well-regarded Volvo 200 series), with another 5 million made from 1969 - 1979 (badged as 2101-2107 depending on engine size/interior specs) for a total of over 18.5 million. Lada terminated the Classic series in the 1990s but production of the model with uprated specifications still continues in significant numbers elsewhere. The car was built under licence in several other countries.
Being exported worldwide in the 1980s and '90s, the Lada was a big earner of foreign hard currency for the hard pressed Soviet economy, and was also used in barter arrangements in some countries. Over 3/5ths of Lada production was exported, mainly to \american+ western countries (the US was the only large market not to have imported Ladas, probably for political reasons) and Lada is unique in being the only car brand found on every continent of the world, including Antarctica (where the Russian research base used Lada Nivas). The rugged design of the Lada Classic, built with heavier gauge steel bodywork, to cope with extreme Siberian climates, poor roads and few service facilities in many parts of Siberia, meant that high mileages (300,000 mls [480,000 km]) were possible under less extreme operating conditions. Because of their very competitive pricing and ease of service, Ladas are common as police cars, taxis, and a range of public service/civil defence vehicles in many parts of Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
In March 2008, Renault announced that they were purchasing 25% of Lada's assets, a $US1 billion deal which will result in new Lada models being developed on existing Russian assembly lines and increased output. Lada is part of the world's third largest automotive group (after General Motors and Toyota) In spite of a flood of western models into the Russian market in recent years, Lada has managed to maintain fairly similar sales figures throughout.
Lada's current products in addition to the Riva range include :
Lada Samara 2, based on the original Samara and featuring restyled exterior and interior. The sedan and five-door hatchback (VAZ 2115 and VAZ 2114 respectively) have been selling since 2001. The three-door hatchback (VAZ 2113) was released in 2004. Engines offered include 1.5 and a 1.6 litre petrol ones, the latter meeting Euro 3 requirements. The Samara 2 range is sold in Russia and markets in the former USSR.
Lada Kalina, released in November 2004 is now offered in its full range - sedan, hatchback and wagon.
Lada Priora - the sedan version was released in April 2007 with the hatchback following suit in February 2008. The wagon version is to be released later, in 2008. The design has been influenced by the success of the Lada 110 range and is an anticipated successor with improved safety. As for now, it remains unknown how this model will be evaluated on European markets.
Lada Silhouette - prototype of next LADA model. The team of Porsche and other known car producers participate on this project.
In late Soviet times, Autovaz held over 70% of the Russian car market with the majority of models it sold being Ladas. In the post-Soviet era, foreign competitors entered the Russian market on a large scale. In 2007, 2.5 million cars were sold in Russia. Of that number 1.65 m were foreign marques being either imports to Russia or assembled in Russia by foreign car companies. The remaining 0.85 m were Russian marques of which 0.75 m were Autovaz Ladas. Russia had become the fastest growing car market in the world and is expected to soon overtake Germany as the largest car market in Europe. Autovaz was therefore courted by a number of foreign manufacturers.
In March 2008 it was announced that the state holding company Rostekhnologia had sold a 25% share in Autovaz to the Renault group. It was further planned to sell a further 25% share of Autovaz on the Russian stock market. This deal immediately pushed the Renault-Nissan-Lada group into third place in the ranking of world car makers behind General Motors and Toyota. Renault stated their intention to maintain and develop the Lada brand into an independent and world class set of products. They plan to double the sales of Ladas in Russia to 1.5 m units by 2015 and to reintroduce Lada to the international markets it withdrew from in the 1990s.