In the early 30s there was the concept of "Soviet Fords" (the so-called GAZ-AA and GAZ-A). And almost 70 years later, they started talking about Russian “Fords”.
Leonid Sapozhnikov. Author photo
Famous brand cars should be produced on the premises of the bankrupt Russky Diesel plant in the Vsevolozhsk district of the Leningrad Region: the first stage is up to 25 thousand a year, and in the future up to 100 thousand. We are still talking about the Focus model (see ZR, 1999, No. 1). By mid-2001, Ford Motor should, by agreement, invest $ 150 million in this project.
The project manager, Mr. Leonard Mini, told the correspondent of ZR that the share of Ford Motor in the Russian market of importers is still 5–6%, but, according to the company’s calculations, cars from Vsevolozhsk will allow it to reach the border of 10-15%.
- In Russia, with its intellectual power and colossal resources per 1000 inhabitants, there are only 100 cars, which means that the market has huge potential.
According to Ford forecasts, sales volumes will return to the pre-crisis level of 1997-2004, and regardless of who the Russians vote for in the upcoming elections: “Politicians come, politicians leave.”
This strategic optimism, one might say, formed the basis of Ford-Vsevolozhsk CJSC. By the summer of 2001, they plan to start the serial assembly of the "magic tricks" at Russky Diesel, including welding and body painting. Cars will go to the markets of the CIS countries - first of all, to the Russian one.
“The company is very proud of Focus, ” added Mr. Mini. - And design, and controllability, and an engine that works like a Swiss watch. My wife and daughter are very demanding of style, and both of them are driving the Focus.
Mr. Mini himself, as it turned out, uses more prestigious cars, such as the Jaguar.
Will the announced price - 13-15 thousand dollars in the basic configuration - allow to sell 25 thousand cars a year in the CIS markets? After all, those of our customers who are able to cross the threshold of $ 10, 000 usually choose a car with a class higher than Focus.
My interlocutor agreed that there is a problem here. But the statistics are inspiring: in 1996 in Russia it was possible to sell 2, 500 “Fords”, in 1997 - about 5, 300, and for the first half-year of the pre-crisis half of 1998 - almost 5, 000 (these were mainly the predecessors of the “tricks” - “ escorts ”). In addition, a marketing study revealed an encouraging pattern: in the first half of 1998, the majority of “lad” buyers spent a lot of money on additional equipment, which is standard in “Fords”. Sales can be increased through installment and leasing. Here Ford will be assisted by its partner, Banking House St. Petersburg, which is the co-founder of the company.
Will the Focus be adapted to Russian roads? Leonard Mini does not consider them so scary: "In Detroit, after a frosty winter, the picture is also not the best."
However, four “tricks” went from Moscow to Rostov and further south to test on roads with different surfaces.
And your correspondent went to the North-West - to St. Petersburg and to the Russky Diesel plant near Vsevolozhsk. Strictly speaking, now it is the main site of the old St. Petersburg plant, which began to be created during the years of perestroika. Diesels for ships and warships were supposed to be made here, but after the collapse of the USSR the state order disappeared and life at the plant almost froze. In one of the huge buildings, vodka is poured. German installers appeared in another: they are preparing it for the assembly of "fords." The first step is to remove expensive, but unnecessary Soviet equipment, some of which are not even mothballed …
Grigory Dvas, vice-governor of the region, chairman of the committee on economics and investments, regrets that Ford has departed from its initial intention to produce the latest models in Vsevolozhsk:
- Now it will be just one of the Ford plants. Not exclusive.
“But Focus is a new model.
- It is now. And in 2001? ..
Nevertheless, Grigory Viktorovich is very glad that the company with a worldwide reputation has arrived:
- Previously, I, luring potential investors, almost danced in front of them. And now it’s much simpler - you just have to say that in our area “Philip Morris” and “Ford” …
The direct social effect of the project is 700 jobs already at the first stage. This is not taking into account the enterprises of the region, which will produce components. By the way, the share of Russian components should reach 50% in monetary terms. But the agreement has an elegant clause that the company is not obliged to use them in Vsevolozhsk, but can sell them abroad. Perhaps this little trick will only benefit the quality of Russian “Fords” …