Lada Russia: Lada is a brand of cars produced by the Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ based in Tolyatti, Samara Oblast. “Lada” was originally the export brand for models sold under the “Zhiguli” name in the domestic Soviet market after June 1970. During the 1970s and 1980s, Lada cars became popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, particularly in former Eastern bloc countries. Lada made its name in Western Europe selling large volumes of the Fiat 124-based VAZ-2101 and its many derivatives as an economy car during the 1980s.
The common Lada sedan and estate, sometimes known as the “Classic” in the West (VAZ 2104/2105/2107 were known as Signet in Canada, Riva in the UK, and Nova in Germany), was based on the 1966 Fiat 124 sedan. Lada was a big foreign currency earner for the hard-pressed Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s by exporting worldwide and was used in barter arrangements in some countries.
Tolyatti, Samara Oblast, Russia
Ladas appeared in Brazil in 1990. Lada was the first car maker to enter the Brazilian car market as an official importer, grey importers having already brought in other brands soon after the importation re-opening. Initially, the Lada 2105 (sedan) and 2104 (station wagon) models (badged as the “Lada Laika”) and the “Lada Niva” were successful, mostly among taxi drivers, because of their low prices and functionality. Shortly thereafter the Samara was launched, but did not enjoy the same success. Both the Lada Laika and the Lada Samara were never well-accepted in the Brazilian used car market.
The Lada brand has been seen since the late 1970s in Colombia. In the 1990s, the 2110/2112 models in their familiar and sedan versions became available as well as the Samara plus a limited number of the sedan version. A local assembler, known as AutoTAT, using technology from the Niva launched to the Colombian market Niva models under the brand Bronto as the Landole and Fora models, which differ from the original model in its motorization, as well as in their measurements; Being these up to 30 cm longer than the Niva model.
Trinidad and Tobago
Lada Riva saloons, estates, Nivas and Samaras found a market in Trinidad and Tobago from 1995 until 2001. Using right hand drive kits from the defunct Lada UK, these were sold as budget transportation. At one time the Riva 1.5 SE saloon was the cheapest new car available. Trinidadian dealer Petrogas Ltd. marketed the Riva as a family runabout and the Niva as a lifestyle 4×4. Increasing competition from grey market Japanese models soon forced Ladas out. The Samara was launched in 2000 as a last-ditch attempt to salvage the brand. It failed and the last Samaras were sold as unfinished kits in 2003.
In 1984 Ladas were first imported into Australia with the Niva compact 4WD and in 1988 the Samara three-door hatchback was launched. The Samara five-door hatchback and four-door sedan later joined the Samara three-door hatch, but under different names—the five-door hatchback was called the “Cevaro” and the four-door sedan was sold as the “Sable”. The Lada Niva 4WD was offered as a pickup truck on an extended wheelbase and with a two-door soft top.
In the 1980s Ladas were briefly popular in New Zealand. Meat, dairy and fertiliser exports to Russia were wholly or partly paid for with Belarus tractors, Stolichnaya vodka and Lada cars. The New Zealand Dairy Board were distributors for Lada vehicles. Some Ladas, even those of the 1970s, can still be seen on New Zealand roads but are increasingly rare.
In the early 1990s the Samara, Riva and Niva were launched in Singapore for a brief period. They proved impractical in a country where cars over three years of age must be inspected yearly. The Certificate of Entitlement system required drivers paying a hefty sum after 10 years to continue driving their cars. Lada quickly left. Few, if any, Lada cars remain on Singapore roads.
Lada cars appeared to Finland in 1971. Lada became the car for the everyman in Finland. It was cheap, reasonably reliable, easy to fix, tune and rig. In the 1970s Ladas were among the popular cars for many years but their share declined. Lada was in 26th position in 2004. Lada cars are no longer sold in Finland. During the 1990s Samaras were assembled at Valmet specifically for the European market, known as the “Euro-Samara”.
“Lada” means barn in Swedish and was imported during the 1970s and 1980s to Sweden for the USSR (Soviet Union) to earn foreign currency. The early classic Lada version of the Fiat 124 was featured with Russian dashboard. The Niva SUV developed a cult following for its robust and inexpensive DIY features. So, the Lada Samara sold less. Also, in the late 1990s after the USSR collapsed, Asian brands forced Lada out of the market. Grey market imports continued, mainly the Niva . In 2010 Lada Sweden was officially reopened by one of the grey market importers. During the 1990s an ad for Samara was prominently displayed for several years at Stockholm Central Station.
United Kingdom and Ireland
In 1974 AvtoVAZ started exporting to the UK and Ireland in 1983 as Lada. The first models to be imported into Ireland were the Lada Riva & Niva. They were followed by the Samara in 1987 which sold in very low numbers. In the early 1990s Lada pulled out of the Irish market. In 1979, Lada manufactured the Niva four-wheel drive. It competed well with Japanese competitor such as the Suzuki SJ/Samurai and Daihatsu Fourtrak in practicality and stability and its off-road ability.
In November 1987 the Samara was introduced in the UK. In May 2010, the Niva became available again, through an independent importer. Aimed at the agricultural market, three models are available (all LHD), the three-door four-seat hatchback at £10,000, a two-seat commercial van, £8000 and a two-door, four-seat pickup for £12,000. All meet UK Vehicle Certification Agency standards.
Middle East and Northern Africa
Both the Riva and Niva are popular amongst the Egyptian working-class. So, the Riva sedan serves as one of Egypt’s most popular taxis and is a fixture in virtually every city.
Also, in the late-1980s Lada entered the Turkish market. Most sales were of Samaras (100,000 units). However, the Niva made an impact in the 4×4 market. New models like Lada 2110 are still sold in Turkey, with less success.