Russia’s Aurus plans ultraluxury vehicles to challenge Rolls-Royce, Bentley

August 29, 2018 16:00 CET

MOSCOW — Aurus, the Russian maker of President Vladimir Putin’s new luxury sedan, will launch a range of upscale vehicles next year and export them to global markets, including Europe and possibly the United States in the long term.

The Aurus Senat sedan was unveiled at the auto show here on Wednesday and will be followed by an SUV, the company said.

Aurus is a new Russian company that hopes to challenge Bentley and Rolls-Royce at the very top end of the luxury vehicle market. The brand is owned by a Russian automotive research institute known by the acronym NAMI in alliance with Russian carmaker Sollers, which also partners with Ford in Russia.

It aims to start building cars at a rate of 150 a year at a NAMI facility until a new factory is completed that will increase production to 5,000 a year with the option of expanding capacity to 10,000, the company said, without giving a timetable.

Aurus is 75 percent owned by NAMI, with the other 25 percent owned by Sollers. Since 2004, NAMI has been deemed a “strategic enterprise” by the Russian government, meaning it is “essential for the national defense and security, protection of morale, health, rights, and legitimate interests of the citizens of Russia,” according to the institute’s website.

An interior view of the Aurus Senat.

Photo credit: Reuters

Russian Trade Minister Denis Manturov has said that state officials would be able to switch to Aurus vehicles when enough of them became available, TASS news agency reported in May.

The Senat was unveiled amid in a large hall at the Moscow show separate to the other automotive stands. Manturov introduced the car on stage alongside Aurus CEO Franz Gerhard Hilgert, a former Mercedes-Benz executive and current Sollers director. Hilgert said he expected Aurus to occupy a “firm position in club of legendary brands.”

The Senat has been homologated to sold in Europe and will be exhibited at the Geneva auto show in March, Hilgert told Automotive News Europe. The company also plans to export cars to China, the Middle East, Africa, South America and South Korea.

Auris ultimately aims to export cars to the U.S. Hilgert but said the homologation requirements meant it was unable to do in the near term.

The Senat uses a 4.4-liter V8 gasoline engine of Aurus’ own design. It is mated to a hybrid electric engine that together produce 598 hp, Hilgert said. The car also has a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. Technology includes adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. The car can be specified to owners’ requirements, including making it fully armored.

The company will start testing the SUV version next year Hilgert said.

The Senat is intended to become the heir to the Russian-made ZIL sedans that for decades transported Soviet leaders. It had its first public outing in May when Putin used a stretched version instead of his usual Mercedes at his inauguration for a new presidential term, sending a patriotic message of Russian self-sufficiency.

Photo credit: Reuters

Russia has been trying to reduce its dependence on imported goods and technology, a drive that has gathered speed since Russia was hit by Western sanctions.

Reuters contributed to this report

You can reach Nick Gibbs at ngibbs@crain.com.

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