Russian car maker weighs assembling some models in Cuba

The Russian vehicle manufacturer GAZ “is considering” assembling some of its products in Cuba or Venezuela for distribution in Latin America, a spokesman for the company said this weekend.

gaz logoHowever, the use of Venezuela for the purpose is “less likely in the short run,” the unidentified spokesman told the Russian daily Izvestia. He did not say what vehicles the company might build in Cuba or when the project would take form.

Established in 1932 in Nizhny Novgorod, GAZ (Gorky Automobile Factory) is the leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles in Russia, with a 58 percent market share in medium-duty trucks and a 50 percent market share in light trucks.

The group also produces buses, vans and automobiles. Under agreements with General Motors and Volkswagen, it currently assembles Aveo and Jetta automobiles.

GAZ’s turn to Latin America is, by the company’s own admission, a result of declining sales in the domestic market. In the first half of this year, its sales of light commercial vehicles fell by 26 percent to 23,400 units. By comparison, the company expects to sell 25,000 units abroad by year’s end, mostly to neighboring republics that were part of the former Soviet Union.

gaz assembly line3

This would not the first time that GAZ has cooperated with Cuba in the manufacture of vehicles. Between 1979 and 1980, Cuba built 15,000 buses mounted on the chassis Model PAZ-672, provided by PAZ (Russian acronym for Pavlov Automobile Factory), a subsidiary of the GAZ Group. Those buses were called “Girón.”

In late 2013, GAZ delivered to Cuba 210 chassis of the PAZ-32053 suburban bus called “Diana,” a 40-passenger carrier.

GAZ is also considering establishing an assembly line in Lithuania for distribution of its products in eastern Europe, the spokesman said. In the past two years, the company has reportedly invested about $500 million in expansion.