‘Pirate’ Western cars go on sale

The Bell

Almost all international car brands have left Russia since the start of the war, and it has become impossible to continue making authentic and licensed foreign vehicles from Russian factories. However, a loophole has emerged that enables Russian companies to manufacture so-called “pirate” cars, branded as Western models without the consent of the company they are claiming to be.

  • Russian dealers have recently started offering a “pirate” version of the Citroёn С5 Aircross — at twice its pre-war price. Citroёn cars were previously made in the auto manufacturing hub of Kaluga, 160 kilometers from Moscow. The controlling stake in the factory that churned them out is still held by a Dutch company, Stellantis. Last year the company said it had de facto lost all control over its Russian assets. Now the factory is once again churning out Citroёn C5 Aircrosses, assembled using Chinese kits exported to Russia by Dongfeng, a Chinese company that builds Citroens in China and has shares in Stellantis. 
  • A Russian-assembled pirate Citroёn С5 Aircross with a 1.6L gasoline engine, eight-speed automatic gearbox, dual-zone climate control, all-round visibility system and keyless entry sells for 4 million rubles ($48,000) at Russian dealerships. That’s almost twice the pre-war price. In early 2024, the vehicle was added to the priority list for authorized use by officials.
  • The Citroёn plant in Kaluga will release another crossover based on this “local assembly” scheme by the end of the year, said Pavel Bezruchenko, head of the “Automotive Technology” company responsible for re-launching production of the French brand. Bezruchenko did not elaborate on exactly what type of vehicle they were planning to put on the market.

Why the world should care

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the exodus of international auto brands, Russia’s car industry has become hugely dependent on China. Beijing not only supplies spare parts, but also complete kits for assembling vehicles. For now, at least, the Western copyright owners can do nothing about this. It’s possible that other “pirate” versions of departed car brands will start to be produced in Russia.


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