Assembly line for Volga Siber sedan, produced by Russian automaker GazEnlarge Photo
Russia is a strange and wondrous place.
On one hand, you have a 6'8" billionaire NBA-team owner backing a startup car company that wants to build natural-gas hybrid cars without battery packs.
That car's name? Yo.
On the other hand, it turns out that even beleaguered Russian car buyers understand vehicle quality. Prime Tass, citing business daily Vedomosti, said that production of the Volga Siber has ceased due to sales far below projections.
Russians now have access to modern small cars from most of the major global manufacturers--including, for example, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze--that are built domestically. The Cruze is built at a large and modern plant in St. Petersburg, and exported throughout Europe.
GAZ unveils Chrysler-based Siber at InterautoEnlarge Photo
Which is why the Volga Siber met with an early death. The Siber, you see, was nothing more than the previous generation Chrysler Sebring, tooling for which was sold to Volga when it was replaced in the U.S. by a redesigned 2007 Sebring.
Unveiled in August 2007, the Siber was modified for Russian roads with a stiffer suspension and a higher ride height. The engine at launch was a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four, with plans for 2.4-liter and 2.7-liter upgrades down the road. The announced price was roughly $18,000.
Production began in July 2008, with goals of 20,000 units that year and 40,000 the following year, on a production line with a maximum capacity of 100,000 cars per year.
But sales never reached even a fraction of that, with just 2,500 Sibers built in all of 2009. A Gaz vice-president was quoted to the effect that a final decision to end production hadn't been made, although the company is no longer buying parts to build new Siber models.
Instead, Gaz is expected to use the production line to assemble foreign-branded vehicles for carmakers that might include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and General Motors.