Zhiguli or LADA? – Russian Brand With Interesting History

Few Russians have probably ever thought about it, but the name of the most famous car in Russia can raise many questions in the mind of a foreigner. And that’s reasonable since many people living outside Russia seem quite unlikely to be able to immediately answer what is the difference between the Zhiguli, Lada, and VAZ cars. Of course, it’s difficult to find any, as there is no! How is it possible? Let’s make it clear together! 

Initially, the ‘Volzhsky Automobile Plant‘ (AvtoVAZ) produced VAZ cars with such names as Zhiguli, Sputnik, Samara, or Oka. It is worth noting that Zhiguli is the name of a mountainous area, which was located near the automobile plant in Togliatti.

Picture: The Zhiguli Mountains, Samara Website

However, this name, familiar to a Russian, arose a negative association in the mind of a foreigner. It appeared so that when selling cars on the foreign market, buyers associated the word “Zhiguli” with the word “gigolo” which threatened the reputation of the car models. Therefore, on the foreign market, the Zhiguli model’s name was quickly replaced by “Lada“. This name is originally Slavic and in the Old Russian language meant “spouse” or “sweetheart”, “dear”. Sometimes the cars were called “Riva” if they were exported to the UK or “Nova” if they were exported to continental European countries.

Picture: LADA Riva, Wikipedia

In 2004, the management of AvtoVAZ announced the global change to the Latin alphabet in the official spelling of the names of all cars produced by the plant. Thus, the name Lada was firmly established on the Russian market, instead of “VAZ” and “Zhiguli”, so familiar to all Russians.

It is interesting that the Russians themselves more often called VAZ cars by their model numbers. For example, VAZ 2101 was usually spoken about as “Kopeyka” (after the name of a Russian coin with a denomination of 1 kopeck), VAZ-2104 appeared in the Russian mind as “Chetvyorka” (“Fourth”), and VAZ 2109 as “Devyatka” (“Ninth”).

Picture: LADA “Chetvyorka”, Mail.ru, Avtovaz

Nowadays, the AvtoVAZ cars are still popular both in Russia and abroad. Since the beginning of 2017, the LADA Vesta sedan has been sold in Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, and Lithuania. In May 2021, LADA Granta became an AVTOVAZ bestseller in Russia and showed a 2.2-fold increase in sales (up to 12,829 cars); the second place in the top was taken by LADA Vesta (10,050 cars), and the third place was reached by LADA Largus (6,357 cars).

The domestic automaker does not stop the active development of the car models and creates more and more new ones, improving the product every year. Now, if you compare the old Zhiguli model and the modern Lada, it will hardly be possible to find at least one common feature, except only a brand sign!

Picture: First LADA VS Modern LADA; Rostec, Cars Website

Ru-Main, 12.08.2021 

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