Unloved Ladas still best-seller

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW - Its boxy styling and spluttering engines have spawned so many dissatisfied owners that it has its very own category of jokes.

But in an unlikely twist of events, the humble Russian-built Lada has had the last laugh and been crowned one of the most popular cars of all time.

According to a new rating of the world's most mass-produced cars, Russia's answer to the VW Beetle is the 10th most prolific car in history.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia responsible for the list and a panel of motoring experts, revealed that AvtoVAZ, the company that makes Ladas, has produced 13.5 million of the vehicles since the early 1970s, turning Lada into an unlikely global auto icon.

Admittedly it has some way to go before it catches up with the world's most popular car, the Toyota Corolla (35 million cars sold), but then nobody expected much from the Lada. Nor has production stopped; the firm's factory in eastern Russia is still churning out two models close to the original design.

The Lada was a clone of the Italian Fiat 124 circa 1965 and was conceived as the ideal vehicle for Soviet citizens. Not that it was easy to get hold of one in the Communist era when people often had to wait up to 10 years to get what was considered a luxury item.

These days Russia's new elite wouldn't be seen dead in a Lada but the humble car's appearance in a list of the top 10 most popular vehicles has nonetheless stirred national pride.

"It turns out that our own car industry does, after all, have something to be proud of," crowed one Russian motor magazine. "It was hard to even call them cars as they seized up too often, were noisy, uncomfortable, underpowered ... in fact the list of shortcomings was pretty long. But now we have cause to celebrate."

But the new rating is unlikely to spark a renaissance in Lada sales in Russia where internet forums are full of horror stories about being forced to rebuild them from scratch because of shoddy assembly.

In true Soviet style it seems Ladas will be remembered for their quantity rather than their quality.

The top 10

Most popular vehicles according to wikipedia.org:
1 Toyota Corolla
2 Ford F-series (trucks)
3 Volkswagen Golf
4 Volkswagen Beetle
5 Ford Escort
6 Honda Civic
7 Ford Model T
8 Nissan Sunny/Sentra/Pulsar
9 Volkswagen Passat
10 Lada Riva


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