Among the numerous products of the Russian industry which are in considerable demand abroad, one of the important ones is the trucks of the Kama automobile plant (KAMAZ). The KAMAZ brand trucks have seen several decades of popularity in various countries of the world thanks to their loading capacity and reliability, as well as their ability to work in tough environments, in terms of both climate and landscape, and easy repair and maintenance. At the same time, the Russian vehicles have a rather small cost.
The decision to build a complex of plants manufacturing powerful and modern trucks on the Kama River was made by the Soviet government in 1969. It became one of the largest construction projects of the Soviet period, which experts from the whole country participated in. The first truck was presented in 1976; and, by 1988, up to one third of all the trucks in the USSR were KAMAZ trucks; they carried out about two thirds of all the road cargo transportation in the country. Already back then, the vehicles were sold abroad in great numbers.
Such characteristics of the truck as stability, structural strength, endurance of the engine, the ability to reach high speed and work in tough conditions are due to the fact that, as well as many other especially successful Soviet technologies, KAMAZ was designed with the assistance of military experts, taking into account the possibility of using the vehicles in times of military action. The operation of the Russian truck in extreme conditions is regularly shown to the general public on various rally marathons, the most popular of which is the transcontinental Dakar motor rally. Since 1996, the Russian team KAMAZ Master competing on the KAMAZ vehicles has won the Dakar rally 16 times. In 2019, the KAMAZ Master took the first place yet again. Also in 2019, the Russian team brilliantly performed at the Eurasian Silk Way rally marathon, its crews took the first, second, third and fifth places. Undoubtedly, the work of the KAMAZ Master team makes a considerable contribution to promoting KAMAZ vehicles around the world.
Foreign partners of the USSR and its rightful heir, the Russian Federation, became interested not only in the import of KAMAZ, but also the localization of its production on their territories. Thus, the Russian vehicles at different times were (or still are) made in India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Ethiopia and the countries of Latin America. In most cases, it was the assembly of sets delivered from Russia, as the KAMAZ company does not share the secrets of the production with everybody.
After the collapse of the USSR, the former Soviet republics (the CIS countries), which had got used to KAMAZ vehicles and for which these cars became an integral part of the national economy, became the main importers of KAMAZ trucks. However, in recent years, the KAMAZ company began to expand the sales market and cooperate mostly with countries situated in more distant locations. In 2015, the CIS accounted for 75% of all exported trucks, leaving 25% to the other countries. Kazakhstan was the main buyer. But, already in 2016, this ratio suddenly turned the other way around: 30% went to the CIS and 70% to distant countries; Vietnam, where at that time the Russian trucks were also assembled, became the main export destination. The second place in the KAMAZ import rating, after Vietnam, went to Cuba in 2016.
In 2017, KAMAZ vehicles were exported to more than 30 countries of the world. Cuba and Vietnam became the main buyers again. The assembly of cars was conducted in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and in Lithuania.
In 2018, KAMAZ exported more than 5,000 ready-for-use vehicles and assembly sets. The countries of Central Asia and Kazakhstan became the main importers again. A considerable number of cars were also sold to Lithuania, Indonesia and South Africa. For such countries as South Africa, KAMAZ produces a specially adapted right-hand drive model.
In February 2019, the company management stated that, in 2019, it was planning to sell about 6,000 vehicles abroad.
In July 2019, KAMAZ signed a contract with the Ganja automobile plant (Azerbaijan) for the delivery of vehicle sets for their subsequent assembly in the Azerbaijani territory. The contract was worth about $6 million.
According to the statements made by company management, there are ongoing negotiations on shipping KAMAZ vehicles to Egypt, Senegal and Cambodia, as well as launching vehicle assembly enterprises in Iran and relaunching the same production in Vietnam.
If the countries of Asia and Latin America still value vehicles first of all for their reliability, loading capacity, cross-country ability, etc, then Europe, among other things, is anxious about the environment protection issues. To satisfy the requirements of its Western partners, KAMAZ has designed vehicles conforming to the constantly evolving European environmental standards over the recent years. The emergence of the KAMAZ electrobus became one of the results of this work. The eco-friendly vehicle is characterized by the silent operation of its engine, economic electric power consumption and fast charging. In 2018, its mass production and use in the Russian system of public transport began. In April 2019, the electrobus was presented to the guests of the International summit of leaders in the sphere of development of city transport which was taking place in Moscow; and, in June 2019, it was presented in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, at the summit of the International union of public transport. It is reported that the new Russian design made a strong impression on the participants of the event.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Kama automobile plant construction. Over these years, the enterprise has brought Russia the profit to the tune of several dozens of billions of rubles and strengthened its international authority as a high-tech country. The technologies used for designing vehicles in the 1970s are still applicable. At the same time, KAMAZ continuously contributes to scientific and technological activities, which regularly brings the Russian Federation new practical results. Apparently, KAMAZ vehicles will go on strengthening the Russian economy and helping it retain its positions on the international market.
Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”