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July 23, 2013

Competition for Russia's Next Presidential Limo Shifts Into High Gear

by Grant Podelco (RFE/RL)

It looks like a cross between a Rolls Royce and an American Chrysler 300. At least that's how some are describing the winning design of a Russian presidential limousine concept car unveiled a few days ago.

It's a beauty. Why President Vladimir Putin hasn't immediately ordered production to begin, we'll never know. So far, there's been no comment from the Kremlin about the new model.

Putin had previously announced his desire to replace the current Mercedes and BMW sedans used by top Kremlin officials with a fleet of new Russian-made limousines manufactured by the venerable Russian truck and heavy equipment company ZiL.

As the website Worldcarfans.com noted at the time:

...A problem immediately occurs as ZiL has not made a passenger vehicle for approximately eight years (they only make trucks) and they don't have any modern armored vehicle know-how.

A rather pedestrian-looking ZiL-4112P 7.7-liter six-speed prototype - described as "not trying to be overly beautiful or pleasing to everyone" - was reportedly rejected by the Russian government, according to the website Carscoops:

Citing a Kremlin source, Russia's Izvestia reported that Putin was "unhappy" with the result, though ZiL's acting CEO, Sergei Sokolov, denied the report, saying the president has not seen the car yet. Russian officials neither denied or confirmed the report. The other two Russian carmakers vying for the prestigious contract are Marussia Motors and GAZ.

The Moscow Times quoted Izvestia as saying that Putin tested the ZiL and said it needed a few unnamed "adjustments." That sounds to us like a Russian euphemism for "back to the drawing board."

Taking the road less traveled, Marussia Motors decided to partner with the Russian website Cardesign and host a competition. More than 100 ideas for a presidential limo were submitted. The winning design - a real stunner - was submitted by Yaroslav Yakovlev and Bernd Weel.

WATCH: A video slideshow presenting Marussia's concept car


As the website Autoevolution notes:

The new limousine design was created by the two over the course of three weeks, and the end result is quite impressive. The vehicle sports a long hood and an imposing front end with huge Rolls-Royce-inspired fascia. Round the back, the design is more original, with unique taillamps and a center-mounted dual-exhaust system.

Autoevolution describes the design as "exquisite," and it's hard to argue. It's like Russia itself - huge, intimidating, and averse to being cornered.

GAZ is reportedly developing a limo based on the Volkswagen Phaeton and Audi A8, which it plans to unveil in 2014.

The question is whether GAZ has been driven to despair after seeing the competition.