AvtoVAZ (АВТОВАЗ) is a Russian automobile manufacturer, also known as VAZ, Volzhsky Automobilny Zavod (ВАЗ, Во́лжский автомоби́льный заво́д ), set up in collaboration with Fiat. It produces nearly one million cars a year, including the Samara, Lada 110 and the Niva, a 4x4 vehicle. The variations of their first car, the model VAZ-2101, based on the 1966 Fiat 124 and introduced in 1970, are still produced and remain the cars most associated with its Lada brand.

The VAZ factory is one of the biggest in the world, has over 90 miles (144 km) of production lines and is unique in that most of the components for the cars are made in-house.



The plant was set up as a collaboration between Italy and the Soviet Union and built on the banks of the Volga river. A new town named Togliatti, named after an Italian communist, was built around the factory. The Lada was envisaged as a "people's car" like the Citron 2CV or the VW Beetle.

The lightweight Italian Fiat 124 was adapted into something intended to survive treacherous Russian driving conditions. Among many changes, aluminium brake drums were added to the rear, and the Fiat engine was revised and converted to overhead camshaft operation. The suspension was raised (to clear rough Russian roads) and the bodyshell was made from thicker, heavier steel. The first Lada models were equipped with a starting handle in case the battery went flat in Siberian conditions, though this was later dropped. Another feature specifically intended to help out in cold conditions was a manual auxiliary fuel pump.

Engines fitted to the original Ladas start with the 1.2 L carburettor in the original and go up to the 1.7 L export model set up with a General Motors single point fuel injection system. Diesel engines were fitted for export only. The drivetrain is a simple rear wheel drive setup with a stiff rear axle. The engine is an inline four with two valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft.

Missing image
VAZ-2105 Zhiguli / Lada Nova

The Fiat-based Ladas feature various headlight, trim and body styles. The original, Fiat style models included VAZ 2101 sedan and VAZ-2102 station wagon. 1972 saw introduction of deluxe version of the sedan, VAZ-2103, which was based on Fiat 124 Speciale and featured new 1.5L engine and twin headlights. In 1974, the original VAZ-2101 was updated with new engines and interiors; VAZ-2102 underwent the same improvements in 1976. These original models were manufactured until 1984.

The VAZ-2106 introduced in 1976 was an updated verion of VAZ-2103, featuring different interiors and new 1.6L engine. 2106 is the oldest and the most popular rear-drive model of AvtoVAZ, its production continued until 2001 and still carried on by licensees.

VAZ-2105, still based on the 2101 but updated to 80s styling, was introduced in 1980. Square headlights and new body panels distinguish this style from the old models. A deluxe version, VAZ-2107, was out in 1982; it featured a better engine, refined interiors and Mercedes-like radiator grille. In 1984, the VAZ-2104 station wagon completed the line-up.

In the domestic market, these classic models were called Zhiguli. The Lada name was used for exports only, but a large share of Ladas was reexported from Eastern block countries, so the brand was well-known in the domestic market as well.

Non-Fiat models

AvtoVAZ designers proved that they have some original ideas when VAZ-2121 Niva was introduced in 1978. This highly popular city car was made with off-road use in mind, featuring full wheel drive, original hull style and the most powerful 1.7L engine in the VAZ range. The Niva is still in production.

Based on the success of the Niva, the design department prepared the new family of front wheel drive models by 1984, a completely domestic design; the body is not unsimilar to Fiat Regata though. Production started with VAZ-21083 Sputnik 3-door hatchback; the series were later renamed Samara. Although the engines are still slighly modified Fiat 124 ones, the line-up features completely new body and interiors, front McPherson suspension and rear torsion bar, rack steering and updated 5-speed gearshift. 5-door VAZ-21093 hatchback followed in 1987, and 4-door 1.5L sedan, VAZ-21099, was introduced in 1990. The same year, the front sides and radiator grille were restyled on the whole Samara range.

The 2108-2109 models were in production until 2001, when they were restyled with new side panels, interiors and 1.5L fuel injection engines. Lada 2109 hatchback was rebadged as Lada 2114, and Lada 21099 sedan was rebadged as Lada 2115. The 2104-21099 model range was transferred to IzhMash and ZAZ and is still being manufactured. In 2004 VAZ also introduced Lada 2113, a restyled version of Lada 2108.

VAZ-1111 Oka micro-car, which closely resembles Fiat Panda, was introduced in 1988, and in 1991 the production was transferred to KamAZ and SeAZ factories.

The break-up of the USSR delayed the production of new 110-series by a couple of years. The VAZ-2110 sedan was introduced in 1996, the 2111 station wagon followed in 1998 and the 2112 hatchback completed the range in 2001. These models are basically based on Samara technology with a new hull and fuel injection engines as standard.

The VAZ-2120 Nadezhda minivan is based on original Niva and is in low-volume production since 1998. A five-door version of the Niva, the VAZ-2131, has been in production since 1995.

Market share

Changes to emissions- and safety-legislation meant that AutoVAZ withdrew from most Western markets by the late 1990s; often, there were also problems with spare parts. In the USA they were never sold due to the cold war, but they were available in Canada (where the Niva was quite popular) however Canadians travelling in the USA in a Lada found out that some gas stations refused to sell fuel to them due to anti-Soviet sentiment. The rise in popularity of Far Eastern imports from newly established manufacturers such as Daewoo, Proton, Kia and Hyundai contributed to Lada's demise in the West. These Korean and Malaysian-manufactured vehicles offered modern Japanese-developed technology, reliability and high equipment levels which Lada could not hope to compete with.

Though the original Lada, and as of the early part of the new millennium the Samara, have now been withdrawn from Europe, the Lada 110 and the Niva are still sold on the European market, as are the more modern models. The Lada is widely available in many Central- and South American countries as well as Africa, the Middle East and in all of the former Soviet Union.

In early post-Communist Russia, a bizarre export market for unwanted Lada vehicles began to emerge. A shortage of both cars and spare parts led to armies of Russian speculators coming to the West (where the cars were considered unfashionable to the point of ridicule and therefore worthless), to buy thousands of Lada cars for export back to their home country. Most of export Lada Samara cars were reexported back in 1994-1996 and they sold very well, due to popular belief that export Ladas are produced with better care than domestic versions. For this reason, Ladas are a relatively rare sight nowadays in Western European countries, although AvtoVAZ has since developed a new generation of Lada cars and is bidding to return to these markets.

Recent developments

As AvtoVAZ was allowed to sell cars to private dealers in late 1980s, mathematician Boris Berezovsky arranged to resell the cars to the public through his LogoVAZ dealerships. In 1993 he started a campaign to collect funds for the people's automobile and created the AVVA venture, which stands for All-Russian Automobile Alliance; the AvtoVAZ held a major share in the venture. The plans were to build a completely new plant for production of Opel Corsa-class car, VAZ-1116. However, the financial crisis of 1998 put these plans to an end. The development concepts of 1116 made a foundation of the Lada Kalina range.

GM-AvtoVAZ, a joint-venture with General Motors, adopted updated version of Niva, VAZ-2123, that was considered for production since the 1990s. Named Chevrolet Niva, it's being built on the venture's plant since 2001 and is exported to Europe and Latin America. In 2004, the Chevrolet Viva, a four-door version of the Opel Astra G, was introduced.

VAZ has also tried to get into the sportier markets: several Ladas were factory-tuned and given a Momo steering wheel. A convertible was also produced. In 2003, VAZ presented the concept car Lada Revolution, an open single seater sportscar powered by a 1.6 L engine producing 215 hp. There are other experimental cars like VAZ-210834 Tarzan SUV concept, VAZ-211223 110-series coupe, VAZ-1922 monster truck and VAZ-2359 pick-up both based on Niva etc.

2005 will see the introducion of the new B-class Kalina lineup to the market. AvtoVAZ has built a new modern plant for this model and hoping to sell some 200,000 cars annually. Production of Lada 1118 sedan started production in November 2004; the Lada 1119 hatchback and Lada 1117 station wagon with updated DOHC 1.6L engines are to follow in 2005–6. The restyled 110-series model, Lada 2170, is set for production in 2006.

By 2006, AvtoVAZ plans to build a plant for Ecotec FAM-1 engines; they are to be used in both GM-AvtoVAZ and Lada cars.

The object of jokes

The original Lada is often thought of as a 'rugged' car, lacking in most modern luxuries expected in modern cars. While sanctions banned their export to the United States, Ladas were available in several Western countries during the 1980s, including Canada and Britain, where, due to a perception of poor quality and their low price, they became the subject of jokes such as these (which are also frequently used for the Yugo):

Q: How do you double the resale value of a Lada?
A: Fill it up with petrol.
Q: Why do Ladas come as standard with rear window defrosters?
A: So your hands stay warm while you're pushing it.
Q: What do you call a convertible Lada?
A: A Skip.

They were along the same line as jokes known for other affordable car models:

  • Ford - also known as Found On Road Dead or Fix Or Repair Daily
  • Fiat - Fix It Again Tomorrow or Fix It Again Tony!

In 1982 Lada became the sponsors of the Classic snooker tournament and offered any player who made a 147 break a Lada; Steve Davis (who achieved it) later commented that the players had joked that the prize for nearly doing so but missing the final black was two Ladas.


Each model has internal index that reflects modifications level, based on the engine and other options installed — for example, the VAZ-21102 variant has the 1.5 L 16V engine, while the VAZ-21104 uses the latest 1.6 L 16V fuel injection engine. Since 2001, trim levels are also indicated by including a number after the main index: '-00' means base trim level, '-01' means standard trim and '-02' designates deluxe version; for example, VAZ-21121-02 means Lada 112 hatchback with 1.6L SOHC engine in deluxe trim level.

The car's name was formed from 'VAZ-index model name. The classic Fiat-derived models were known on the domestic market as Zhiguli (Жигули) until late-1990s, when the name was dropped; thus, the 2104-2107 range, as well as 110-series, actually lack a model name. The restyled Sputnik range was renamed Samara but the Niva and the Oka retained their names. By 2000s, the VAZ designation was dropped from market names in favour of Lada and simplified export naming conventions were adopted, so VAZ-2104 effectively became Lada 2104, VAZ-2110 became Lada 110, VAZ-2114 became Lada Samara hatchback or Lada 114 and so on.

Classic Zhiguli

IndexEngineExport nameProductionNotes
2101 sedan
21011.2LLada 1200 1972-1982
210111.3LLada 1300 1974-1981
210131.2LLada 1200S 1977-1983
210161.5L Police version
2102 station wagon
21021.2LLada 1200 Combi 1972-1983
210211.3LLada 1300 Combi 1978-1986
210251.5LLada 1500 Combi 1978-1986
2103 sedan
21031.5LLada 1500 1972-1984
210331.3L Lada 1300S 1972-1984 Export only
210351.1LLada 1100 1977-1984 Export only
2106 sedan
21061.6LLada 1600 1976-2001
210611.5L Lada 1500L 1976-1988
210631.3LLada 1300SL 1976-1988
210641.6LLada 1600SLDeluxe version, export-only, 5-speed gearshift
210651.6L1990-2001 Deluxe version, 5-speed gearshift
2104 station wagon
21041.3LLada Nova Break/Estate/Family 1300 1984-1994
210411.6LLada Laika 2000-2004 5-speed gearshift
210431.5LLada Nova Break/Estate/Family 1500 1984-2004 5-speed gearshift
210441.7LLada Nova Break/Estate/Family 1700 Export only; CPI fuel injection from GM
21045 Export only; licensed diesel engine
2105 sedan
21051.3LLada Nova/1300L 1979-1995
210511.2LLada Junior/1200L 1979-1995
210531.5LLada Nova/Laika 1979-2004
210541.6L Police version; additional fuel tank and battery
21059 Police version; comes with VAZ-4132 Wankel engine
2107 sedan
21071.5LLada 1500SL/Riva/Laika 1982-2004
210721.3L 1982-1995
210731.7LLada Riva/Laika 1991-2001 Export only; CPI fuel injection from GM
210741.6L Police version; additional fuel tank and battery
21079 Police version; comes with VAZ-4132 Wankel engine


IndexEngineExport nameProductionNotes
2121 Niva off-roader
21211.6LLada Niva 1977-1993 Four wheel drive
212131.7LLada Niva 1993 Four wheel drive; restyled rear door
212141.7LLada Niva 1993 Four wheel drive; restyled rear door; CPI fuel injection from GM
2131 Niva off-roader
21311.7LLada Niva 1995 extended 5-door version of 2121
2108 Sputnik 3-door hatchback
21081.3LLada Samara 1300 1984-2001
210811.1LLada Samara 1100 1984-1996 Export only
210831.5LLada Samara 1500 1984-2001
21083i1.5LLada Samara 1500i 1993-2001 Multi-point fuel injection
210861.3LLada Samara 1300 1990-1996 Export only; right-hand drive for United Kingdom
210871.1LLada Samara 1100 1990-1996 Export only; right-hand drive for United Kingdom
210881.5LLada Samara 1500 1990-1996 Export only; right-hand drive for United Kingdom
17061.5LLada Chelnok 1990 Pickup truck version of 2108
2108-91 Police version; comes with VAZ-415 Wankel engine
2109 Sputnik 5-door hatchback
21091.3LLada Samara L 1300 1987-1997
210911.1LLada Samara L 1100 1987-1996 Export only
210931.5LLada Samara L 1500 1990-2001
21093i1.5LLada Samara L 1500i 1993-2001 Multi-point fuel injection
210961.3LLada Samara L 1300 1990-1996 Export only; right-hand drive for United Kingdom
210981.5LLada Samara L 1500 1990-1996 Export only; right-hand drive for the United Kingdom
2109-90 Police version; comes with VAZ-415 Wankel engine
21099 Sputnik sedan
210991.5LLada Samara Forma 1500 1990-2001
21099i1.5LLada Samara Forma 1500i 1993-2001 Multi-point fuel injection
2109931.3LLada Samara Forma 1300 1990-2001
1111 Oka micro-car
11110.7L 1988-1990 Licensed to SeAZ and KamAZ
111130.8L 1990 Kama, produced at KamAZ
2123 Niva
21231.7LChevrolet Niva 2001 Never appeared under Lada/VAZ brand; produced by GM-AvtoVAZ; multi-point fuel injection
2120 Nadezhda minivan
21201.8L 1998 Based on 2131; Carburettor
212041.7L 1998 CPI fuel injection from GM
2110 sedan
21101.5L 1996-2001 Carburettor
211021.5LLada 110 1998-2004 8V i
211031.5LLada 110 1998-2004 16V i
211011.6LLada 110 2004 8V i
211041.6LLada 110 2004 16V i
211051.7L 1996-?? Carburettor
21106 2.0L Opel C20XE Ecotec engine (external tuning)
21108 1.8L Lada Premier A "limousine" with increased wheelbase and up-stroked engine (external tuning)
2111 station wagon
211101.5LLada 111 1998-20048V i
211111.5L 1998-2001 Carburettor
211131.5LLada 111 2000-2004 16V i
211141.6LLada 111 2004 16V, i
2112 hatchback
211201.5LLada 112 2000-2004 16V, i
211221.5LLada 112 2000-20048V i
211211.6LLada 112 20048V i
211241.6LLada 112 200416V i
2113 Samara 3-door hatchback
211301.5LLada Samara 2004 Restyled 21083; 8V i
2114 Samara 5-door hatchback
211401.5LLada Samara 2001 Restyled 21093; 8V i
2115 Samara sedan
211501.5LLada Samara 2001 Restyled 210993; 8V i
1118 Kalina sedan
111701.6LLada Kalina 2004 8V i
1119 Kalina hatchback
111901.6LLada Kalina due 2005 16V i
1117 Kalina sation wagon
111701.6LLada Kalina due 2006 16V i
2170 Priora sedan
2170? Lada Priora due 2006-2007
217? Priora hatchback
217?? Lada Priora due 2006-2007

See also

List of automobile manufacturers

External links

de:Lada (Auto) es:Lada fr:Lada sv:Lada (bil) nl:Lada ru:Автоваз


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