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Conducted a conversation

Elena WARSAW

THE CHANCE OF THE AUTOMOTIVE SHOULD BE USED

We are discussing the future fate of the Russian automotive industry with the financial director of ASM Holding JSC Alexander KOVRIGINY.

- At the turn of the century, even millennia, it seems that some radical changes are waiting for the world. Is this true for your industry?

- The magic of the “three zeros” has nothing to do with it. But the changes in the domestic automotive industry, of course, are coming. If only because the sources of stabilization and growth, which appeared in August 1998, have already been exhausted. It is necessary to act in order to prevent a new decline, this time, perhaps a deeper one. Yes, life gave us a happy chance, having brought down the ruble and making Russian goods immeasurably cheaper than foreign ones. Thanks to import substitution, domestic enterprises began to increase output. But … The work went to wear and tear - the plants were not updated, their management did not change much, they did not invest money in science, nor did they invest. And here is the result: by the end of 2000, the auto industry will come with the same indicators in terms of output as it was … ten years ago! Passenger cars, for example, were made in 1990, 1102 thousand units, and in the past - 950 thousand. Yes, the assortment has increased, new models have appeared - but the quality has fallen! Even compared to the nineties, not to mention modern requirements. Many of the standards that were in force then were abolished, and not all of the existing ones are implemented.

- As far as I know, the situation with the release of trucks is even more sad: if in 1990 they were released 720 thousand, then in 1998 - only 140 thousand pieces.

- There is nothing wrong with that: the demand for trucks has sharply decreased, according to our forecasts, the market needs no more than 200-250 thousand a year. And this, by the way, was already known when a burned-out engine plant with a production volume of 200 thousand units was restored at KamAZ. in year! And now we need to think about how to organize the work of this production so that it is effective, how to smooth out losses from an ill-conceived decision. At the same time, it is necessary to expand the production of commercial trucks, as well as small tonnage machines and specialized equipment. To do this, it is necessary to develop the component base, to specialize and unify production.

“I already guess what you're leading to: money is needed.” But we know that there are none in the country.

- Not true! Russia is a rich country. Here is just one example: two years ago a barrel of oil was worth $ 9, now - 27–28! And Russia sells abroad millions of tons of oil. This money is being spent on something! They should work, moreover, not somewhere abroad, but with us. It should become profitable for them to work in Russia, safely and profitably. For this, it is necessary that the state creates such conditions. Now the automotive industry needs investments - 15-16 billion rubles a year. It is practically only to maintain existing capacities. What do we have? About 4.5 billion rubles last year - at the expense of enterprises' own funds and about $ 400 million from external sources for the entire period of market reforms. This means that further components will be of poor quality, the assembly will not improve, new models will not soon stand on the conveyor.

- Probably, the trouble is not only in the high risk of investments. It is difficult to find a strategic investor for a colossus like AvtoVAZ or GAZ. For so much time there has been talk about the need to disaggregate huge plants, to allocate specialized production from them; they are much easier to develop, easier to find a partner. But something is not visible any change.

- In order to carry out restructuring, we need a high organization of production, strict adherence to contractual obligations, and strict discipline of deliveries and payments. And - a stable financial system. In our country, it’s easier for an enterprise to build a workshop under its roof and produce components in it, than to pay “live” money to someone on the side. But is own production, for example, plastics for one plant effective, even with a large output? No, it is more profitable to have a specialized plant that provides components for one and a half to two million cars, which means that it works for several car assembly plants. And someday we will come to this. The faster, the more the state will be interested in this. Now the current VAT system does not allow this.

- And then … we lose the national automotive industry, right? Most of our component manufacturers and assembly plants will have foreign owners. Already, foreigners' interest in some enterprises producing automotive components is palpable.

- In New York, a lot of real estate belongs to the Japanese, but the Americans do not live worse from this. If foreign investors come to us with advanced technologies and high quality requirements, then “joint” components will meet international standards. So, the cars from them assembled will approach the world level. Again, it is possible, for example, to retain a controlling block of shares - and then the enterprises will not be undividedly owned by a foreign owner. To make a profit - yes, to depend completely - no.

- Is it real? Are our eternal debtor car factories able to withstand and maintain at least some independence?

- The association of car manufacturers is a global trend. Soon there will be only six to seven transnational giants. Naturally, the larger the company, the more it can: invest in science, new developments, development of production. The petty ones will not catch up with them. And we still have factories that produce cars of only one class, which compete with each other due to state investments, for example, KamAZ, Ural, ZIL or UAZ. This does not give them stability even in our, so far rather isolated, economy. Naturally, in order to resist, they will have to unite with someone, having lost independence. In general, two processes must go hand in hand in the automotive industry: the separation of independent component production from huge enterprises, on the one hand, and on the other, the unification of car assembly plants into large holding companies. Then it will be possible to defend one or two such large national companies, to preserve domestic car brands.

“But will they be able to compete with the foreign ones that they plan to mass collect in Russia?” Wouldn’t you still have to give up the patriotic idea of ​​driving a Nashensky Russian car?

- It all depends on what task the state will set for itself. AvtoVAZ and GAZ are not poor plants. For example, the revenue from sales at VAZ is about 40 billion rubles. last year, at the Gorky Automobile Plant - exceeds 22 billion rubles. It is only necessary to create conditions so that this money is invested in science, in the development of production, and not given at world prices for metal, glass, rubber goods, and other components. A new trend has appeared: our raw materials producers began to buy component factories. Gas workers, almost monopolists in the production of mixtures for the tire industry, own several large tire factories. Automobile industry enterprises are acquired by both oil workers and metallurgists. If this process is not directed in the right direction, perhaps the Russian auto industry may simply become an appendage of the commodity industries, and this is wrong .. And as for the “mass production” of foreign cars in Russia, I would not be deceived: they are still affordable, and even if some components will be produced in Russia, all the same, the price of foreign cars will be high, which means that production volumes are small.