Russian carmaker to produce upscale vehicles for global market

Aurus wants its cars to compete with Bentley and Rolls-Royce

Not only food products and household goods are subject to Russia's import substitution programme: the country is going to produce its own ultraluxury vehicles. Moreover, the new carmaker plans to enter both European and non-European markets and hopes to challenge world leaders like Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Russian Aurus will launch a range of upscale vehicles next year and export them to global markets, including Europe and possibly the United States, says Automotive News Europe. Last week, the company presented its Senat sedan at the Moscow International Auto Show (MIAS) and announced that it would be followed by an SUV. In May, President Vladimir Putin used a stretched version of the vehicle instead of his usual Mercedes at the inauguration ceremony for a new presidential term.

Aurus is owned by a Russian automotive research institute known as NAMI (75%) in alliance with Russian carmaker Sollers (25%). According to NAMI's website, the institute is a ''strategic enterprise'', which is ''essential for the national defence and security, protection of morale, health, rights and legitimate interests of the citizens of Russia''. The carmaker plans to start building cars at a rate of 150 a year at a NAMI facility. After the launch of a new factory, Aurus expects to increase production to 5,000 a year with the option of expanding capacity to 10,000.

In May, Russia's Minister of Trade Denis Manturov said that state officials would be able to switch to Aurus vehicles as soon as enough of them became available. It was Manturov who introduced the car at the MIAS.

In May, President Vladimir Putin used Aurus vehicle at his inauguration for new presidential term. Photo:

According to Aurus CEO Franz Gerhard Hilgert, a former Mercedes-Benz executive and current Sollers director, Senat uses a 4.4-litre gasoline engine of the company's own design mated to a hybrid electric engine. The car has a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. The vehicle can be specified to owners' requirements, including making it fully armoured. The tests of the SUV version will start next year.

In March, Senat will be exhibited at the Geneva auto show. The company plans to export cars to China, the Middle East, Africa, South America and South Korea. They have also been homologated to be sold in Europe. Although Aurus ultimately aims to export cars to the US, it is impossible in the near term because of the homologation requirements. Nevertheless, Hilgert expects Aurus to occupy a ''firm position in the club of legendary brands''.

By Anna Litvina

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