New boss of Russian carmaker Avtovaz enters a lion's den

Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:57pm EDT
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By Gleb Stolyarov and Jack Stubbs

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Nicolas Maure, brought in to turn around Renault-Nissan's Russian carmaker Avtovaz, is entering a lion's den where his predecessor fell foul of diving sales and powerful vested interests among shareholders, suppliers and workers.

The 55-year-old Frenchman is likely to press on with cutting the workforce and weeding out shoddy component suppliers, albeit at a slower place than the last chief, while fending off those who want to keep the status quo.

Avtovaz, producer of Russia's best-selling Lada brand and the country's biggest automaker by sales, is deeply troubled.

Maure was named chief executive on Tuesday to replace Swedish national Bo Andersson, who fell victim to Russia's economic slump which hurt car sales, and came under fire from Avotvaz's Russian shareholders who criticized him for laying off workers.

Until now, Maure has been running Renault's REN.PA Romanian business Dacia, giving him experience of working in a former Communist bloc state and dealing with prickly unions. But the problems he will encounter at Avtovaz's Togliatti plant on the Volga river are on a different scale.

One manager has been shot dead since the collapse of communism in Russia - an incident linked to organized crime which at times has infected the auto industry - and in the past few years some senior staff at the plant have gone around Togliatti with bodyguards.

Maure's appointment was announced by Avtovaz's main shareholders, the Renault-Nissan alliance and Russian state-owned Rostec, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

"Avtovaz has modernised its line-up and manufacturing processes, and significantly improved product quality," said Carlos Ghosn, who heads the Franco-Japanese alliance and is Avtovaz chairman. "We remain bullish about the long-term future of the Russian market and Avtovaz as the leading domestic automaker."   Continued...

The logo of Russian automobile maker Avtovaz is seen on a Lada car, which is on sale at the 'AvtoGermes' dealership in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov