19 Jan 2024 13:00

Aurus might assemble cars at former Toyota plant in St. Petersburg - paper

MOSCOW. Jan 19 (Interfax) - Russian luxury car brand Aurus is considering setting up assembly of its automobiles at the former Toyota plant in St. Petersburg, national daily Kommersant reported on Friday.

The papers sources said that gas giant Gazprom , which plans to acquire a stake in the Aurus project, wants to see the cars produced in St. Petersburg.

The plant in the Shushary area of St. Petersburg is now owned by NAMI, a company controlled by Russia's Industry and Trade Ministry that is the main shareholder in Aurus with 63.5% of shares. The other shareholders are Arab fund Tawazun with 36% and automaker Sollers Group with 0.5%.

Aurus cars have been produced in small numbers in Yelabuga since the middle of 2021, with body welding and painting done at Sollers facilities. The company currently produces the Aurus Senat full-size sedan and the Aurus Komendant SUV. Production numbers are unknown, but there were plans to assemble 200 Komendants in 2023.

Gazprom's board of directors planned to discuss the Aurus project in early December, company materials showed. Vedomosti, citing sources, reported at the end of October 2023 that Gazprom might acquire up to 40% of Aurus.

Aurus LLC CEO Andrei Pankov, a former executive for Renault in Russia, has become head of Shushary Avto, the direct owner of the former Toyota plant in Shushary. He has also become head of JSC North Star Auto Plant, a company established in mid-December that is wholly owned by Irina Rostova and has an address on the kamaz domain.

The paper said that Aurus, NAMI, truck maker Kamaz and Pankov did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. Gazprom declined to comment.

The St. Petersburg city governor's office neither confirmed nor denied the information about plans to produce Aurus cars at the Shushary plant. "I cannot confirm this at this time," Kommersant reported the head of the city's industrial policy, innovation and trade committee, Kirill Soloveichik as saying.

The paper's sources suspect that Kamaz, which is already acting as technology partner for Moskvich, Renault's former plant in Moscow, might help Aurus set up production. But a source close to Kamaz told the paper that Aurus "will manage quite well on its own" and that Rostova is a "legal consultant."

The Industry and Trade Ministry said last summer that NAMI would transfer the Shushary Avto plant to defense company Almaz-Antey. Initially there was talk of starting production of the e-Neva electric crossover developed by Almaz-Antey in 2026, but then the company said it planned to start assembling its own truck in 2024.

The paper's sources said Alamaz-Antey did not initially have a ready project for serial production, so the Aurus looks like a more viable option. Furthermore, the Toyota plant produced cars before it was acquired by NAMI.