Remember the Yugo? It was a small, cheap econobox, based on 1970s Fiat underpinnings and imported to the U.S. from its home country of Serbia.
They actually sold over 100,000 in the U.S. between 1985 and 1992, but the model is derided as slow, unreliable and thoroughly undesirable.
The image of Russian carmaker Lada is much the same in Europe, where several of its models were sold throughout the 1980s and 1990s. And now, Lada is jumping on the electric car bandwagon with a new car, revealed at the 2012 Moscow Auto Show.
Normally such news would be treated with trepidation, but the combination of batteries and a smooth electric motor actually makes the El Lada more appealing than its fossil-fueled comrades.
Inside Line reports that the car is mainly intended for taxi use in the Caucasus region of Russia, and is based on a gasoline production model, the Kalina.
Performance is par for the course. Top speed is 80mph, and Lada claims up to 93 miles on an eight-hour charge.
But while--like the Yugo--Ladas are normally designed to meet the needs of buyers with very little money to spend, the electric version will be less of a budget choice. Where a regular Kalina is between $8,000-$10,000, the El Lada will cost the equivalent of $31,148.
Nissan doesn't sell its Leaf in Russia, which is probably just as well for Lada--loyal to the company Russians may be, but it's hard to see the El Lada offering the same levels of quality as its Japanese counterpart.
What the new electric Lada does suggest is that manufacturers of every sort are beginning to appreciate the market for electric cars--even those that traditionally place value over all else.