Russia’s war ends UK sales of Lada Niva

Russia’s war ends UK sales of Lada Niva

Britain’s sole Lada Niva importer has listed what’s likely to be the last-ever version of the Russian offroader brought into the UK.

With sanctions against Russia growing just over a year on from its invasion of Ukraine, business is about to end for London-based Mark Key, who brought his first Niva to the UK in 2010. His last is a high-spec Bronto Prestige. “It ended the business full stop,” he said of the invasion. However, with the war resulting in an estimated death toll of 200,000 and rising, Key acknowledges that the impact on his firm is trivial and admits to “genuine distress” at what has been happening.

Key became interested in the Niva after recognising its ability during a skiing holiday in the Alps. He noted how it was one of the few vehicles beside snow-chained Renault 5s and Fiat Panda 4x4s trusted to deal with the very worst conditions.

“There was a gap in the UK for a tech-free, practical 4x4, bigger than the Suzuki Jimny but smaller than a Land Rover and without any ‘lifestyle’ connotations,” said Key.

The importation process wasn’t simple, however. “Various emails and letters to the Russian embassy resulted in little,” he recalled.

“Finally, I got a positive reply from a Lada export agent. I ordered a standard white three-door Niva. It only took two weeks to get into the EU.”

From this modest start, a business was launched. Gaining an understanding of how Lada owner Avtovaz operated was essential, Key recalled: “An order for a red and a blue car would go in and the answer would come back: ‘This month we make white. You take white.’” No options were available, either.

There was also a continual need to realise how political sensitivities could upset things. But there was a steady stream of UK customers from all walks of life, and Key was on target to bring in 90 Nivas in 2022 before the war began. For his next venture, Key has his eye on North America, where the likes of the Daihatsu Hijet and Suzuki Carry have gained a cult following.

“These little, often 4x4, lightweight trucks make an attractive and economical alternative to the utility trucks associated with farm and forestry work and an alternative fun vehicle for town dwellers,” he said.

Key is now looking to import four-wheel-drive kei trucks from Japan

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