Anthony Grade, Renault’s vice president of exterior design, has been appointed the new head of design for Avtovaz, the Russian carmaker most associated with its Lada brand.
The move shows how seriously Avtovaz is taking the design of its next generation of cars, some of which are intended to be offered in western European markets.
Grade has been at Renault for two decades and had his first meeting with Avtovaz bosses at the Paris motorshow last week. Autocar understands that he will be tasked with a complete overhaul and modernisation of Lada’s model range.
The move comes hard on heals of Renault’s €1bn purchase of a 25 percent stake in the Russian carmaker. Avtovaz has also paid Renault hundreds of millions of Euros for the right to use the Dacia Logan platform and to produce two modern Renault engines.
This technology will be used to replace Avtovaz’s ageing model line-up and production is expected within three years.
51 year-old Grade will be moving to the giant Togliatti plant, which is about 400 miles south east of Moscow. He told Autocar that he “wouldn’t be going there to tell the Russians what to do,” although he agreed that the prospect of a clean-sheet redesign of an established brand was an exciting prospect.
“They are very proud of the Lada brand, which sells very well in Russia and nearby countries,” he said, “we will be looking for local design talent in Russia and eventually we could open a design studio in Moscow.”
Grade also hinted that Lada’s home market was relative unusual in that Russian tastes varied across the various age groups. Younger buyers in Russia have similar tastes to the rest of Europe, while older consumers who can remember the old Soviet Union are more nostalgic for the past.
The introduction of new-generation Ladas engineered to common European standards could an opportunity for the brand to begin significant exports into western markets for the first time in decades. The Togliatti facility has a potential capacity of one million units per year.