Russian truckmaker KAMAZ in the spotlight
by Olivia Kroth
Russian truckmaker KAMAZ in the spotlight: In January 2020, two Russian KAMAZ master teams won the first and second place in this year’s Dakar Rally, which took place in Saudia Arabia. KAMAZ has one more time won this rally in the category of trucks, as it did already many times before, showing that KAMAZ trucks are very sturdy and reliable vehicles in all kinds of surroundings and climate. KAMAZ is the largest automobile corporation in Russia and one of the world’s 20 leading manufacturers. The company produces trucks, trailers, buses, tractors, engines, power units and different tools. Its main shareholders are the state-owned Rostec corporation (47.1%) and Avtoinvest (23.54%). On the 50th anniversary of the enterprise, President Putin visited the KAMAZ factory in Naberezhnye Chelny, Tatarstan. He spoke with the workers, lauding them for their excellent work.
The 42nd Dakar Rally started from Jeddah on the Red Sea, on January 5, and ended in the town of Al Quiddiya, on January 17. Saudi Arabia, the “Kingdom of Sand”, was an especially interesting challenge for the Russian drivers. They drove through a wide range of landscapes, including canyons, dunes, mountains and wadi, the Arabic name for dry riverbeds. They also got to know a new culture and new people.
In the vast mountain region of Hijaaz, on the border with Jordan, they saw Saudi Arabia’s highest point, Jabal al-Lawz Mountain (the Mountain of Almonds), 2.500 metres above sea level. Here, in this labyrinth of mountain valleys, the Russian co-drivers had to solve difficult navigation tasks. However, the most interesting and intense part of the competition took place in the Nefud and Rub’ al Khali deserts (literally the Empty Quarter), where sandy landscapes extend as far as the eye can see and the height of dunes reaches 250 metres.
Four Russian teams with KAMAZ-43509 sports trucks took part. In this relatively new truck, which saw the light in 2018, an in-line six-cylinder engine was used, due to changes in the Dakar regulations, restricting the maximum engine capacity to 13 litres in the truck classification. The preparation of the race trucks for the Dakar Rally 2020 was mainly aimed at improving the performance of various systems, increasing the reliability of units and parts, as well as reducing the weight of some components.
Two of the Russian teams were victorious in Saudi Arabia. Driver Andrei Karginov, co-driver Andrei Mokeev and mechanic Igor Leonov won the first place in the category of trucks (46H 33′ 36”). Driver Anton Shibalov with co-driver Dmitri Nikitin and mechanic Ivan Tatarinov reached the second place (47H 16′ 02”).
Andrei Olegovich Karginov (Андрей Олегович Каргинов) was born in Naberezhnye Chelny (Набережные Челны) on the 23rd of February, 1976. This is the second largest city in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan. A major industrial centre, Naberezhnye Chelny stands on the Kama River, 225 kilometres east of Kazan. Andrei Karginov is an Honoured Master of Sports of Russia, winner of the 2014 Dakar Rally and currently head of the KAMAZ-master team. His father, Oleg Karginov, was one of the founders of buggy racing in Naberezhnye Chelny.
His first step on the road to the world of big motorsport was karting, at the age of nine. This hobby turned out to be very successful for Andrei. He became the karting champion of Tatarstan several times. While studying in high school and later at university, Andrei practiced at the KAMAZ Centre of Science and Technology, where the KAMAZ-master team is based. Here he got acquainted with the activities of the team and was able to join it, in 2005. Andrei Karginov received the Order of Friendship (Орден Дружбы) for his achievements, in 2015.
Andrei Karginov, Head of the KAMAZ-Master team at the Dakar Rally 2020:
On the 13th of December 2019, President Vladimir Putin visited the KAMAZ plant in Tatarstan for the 50th anniversary of its existence. He greeted the employees with the following words: “Today is a great day, a jubilee – KAMAZ is 50 years old. Congratulations! We bow to those who laid the foundation for this enterprise and put their heart into it. I mean the workers, builders, engineers and scientists, who launched this outstanding and exciting project. People came here from all over the Soviet Union. They formed a unique workforce in terms of composition.”
The President lauded the workers: “Of course all of you love your native city, your Republic of Tatarstan. Your hearts and souls are with our greater common Homeland, Russia. People of various ethnic origins, religions and different ages have worked and are working here today. We have a good mix here – very energetic and forward-thinking. Wonderful young people. We have just visited the production shops – people are thinking about the future. And what cutting-edge, remarkable products you make, great machines!”
President Vladimir Putin at the KAMAZ factory in Tatarstan:
President Putin pointed out that KAMAZ has become internationally well-known: “Naturally, we are proud of our brand in this country but KAMAZ has become an international brand too, partly due to your and our rally drivers, who achieve impressive results every year and never spare themselves at these prestigious international competitions. Let’s congratulate them on their victories once again. I want to thank you all for your work. All of us, the entire country is proud of your achievements. My congratulations on the 50th anniversary of KAMAZ. Good luck!”
The construction of the Kama automobile plant began in 1969. On December 13, the first bucket of soil was excavated at the production site of the future automobile giant. Today, KAMAZ is a major automaker in Russia and a world leader in truck production. The industrial group consists of 109 companies, located in Russia, the CIS and other foreign countries. It covers the entire production cycle from product design to marketing and service.
KAMAZ trucks driving along Russian roads:
During his visit to KAMAZ, President Vladimir Putin compared the Russian truck maker with phoenix rising from the ashes: “I remember very well the state, in which the plant was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The fire, which took place in 1993, dealt a serious blow to the enterprise. You took control of it in a very difficult period. In the years that followed, the plant rose from the ashes like a phoenix and gained an absolutely new shape, not only in appearance but also in essence, in quality.” The engine-making facility of KAMAZ was completely destroyed by fire, on the 14th of April 1993. Its production was restored, by the end of that year. Losses were estimated at about $150 million (TASS, 13.12.2019).
Naberezhnye Chelny (Набережные Челны), where the KAMAZ plant is located, has a population of 514.000 inhabitants.It was granted town status in 1930 and was called Brezhnev, after Leonid Brezhnev, from 1982 to 1988. Naberezhnye Chelny is one of the residence centres of the Udmurt Jews, who speak Udmurtish Yiddish.
With more than five square kilometres dedicated to production, the KAMAZ plant is the largest vehicle factory in the world. KAMAZ (Камский Автомобильный Завод – КАМАЗ) produces heavy trucks, which are exported to Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Today, the KAMAZ Company has more than 110 subsidiaries and affiliates. It owns shares in the authorized capital of more than 50 different companies and businesses. Together they form the KAMAZ Group.
Considered by many as one of the strongest trucks in the world, KAMAZ not only carries cargo. It is also an indispensable helper for the military and police. The first ever KAMAZ appeared in 1974. It was the legendary KAMAZ-5320, which stayed in production for almost 25 years. Soviet designers were in a hurry to satisfy the needs of the Soviet industry at the time. In the first year, 21 trucks were rolling off the assembly line each day. The truck was also commissioned to service the Soviet troops in East Germany. The KAMAZ-5320 was easy to drive, had a more comfortable cabin compared with other trucks and performed well on rough terrain.
KAMAZ-5320 on a postage stamp of the USSR in 1974:
Sergei Anatolyevich Kogogin (Сергей Анатольевич Когогин) has served as Director General of KAMAZ, since April 2002. He was born in a small village of the Tatar SSR, on the 16th of November 1957. After eight years of high school, Sergei Kogogin entered the Kazan Aviation Technical College, where he graduated in 1977. After graduation, he worked at the Zelenodolsk Engineering Plant and continued studying physics at the Kazan State University. In 1982, he received his degree in radio physics. He also studied at the Banking School and left it with a PH.D. in economics.
From 1990 to 1994, he was Director of the Zelenodolsk Engineering Plant. In 1999, he became a member of the Board of Directors of KAMAZ OJSC. Since 2002, he is Director General of KAMAZ OJSC and also Honorary Citizen of Naberezhnye Chelny. In 2007, Sergei Kogonin received the Order of Friendship (Орден Дружбы) of the Russian Federation. The Order of Honour (Oрден Почёта) followed, in 2016, and the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” (Орден «За заслуги перед Отечеством»), in 2018.
KAMAZ Director General Sergei Kogogin with his wife (front row, centre and right):
Since the 1st of November 2019, Eugene Makarov is the new chief designer of KAMAZ. He was born in Kazan, Tatarstan, in 1974. Eugene Makarov has a degree in automotive engineering from the Kama Polytechnic Institute and also studied at the Kazan State Technological University, where he graduated in 2000.
Eugene Makarov began his career at KAMAZ in 1996 as a design engineer for driving axles and transmissions. From 1998 to 2005, he worked at small enterprises of the city. In December 2005, he returned to KAMAZ as deputy chief designer for automobile aggregates and special equipment. He also managed the projects «Perspective KAMAZ cars» and «Reengineering of automobile production» (KAMAZ WEBSITE, 05.11.2019).
KAMAZ chief designer Eugene Makarov:
In the same month, Daimler Truck acquired 15 percent of KAMAZ. The German company received 106,08 million shares. Previously, Daimler Truck’s parent company, Daimler AG, held that share of stock (TASS, 25.11.2019). In May 2019, Daimler announced its cooperation with KAMAZ on the Daimler website:
“Today marks yet another milestone for DAIMLER KAMAZ RUS (DK RUS), the Joint Venture between Daimler Trucks and its Russian partner KAMAZ. Opening a brand new truck cabin production facility in Naberezhnye Chelny, Daimler Trucks and KAMAZ reach a new level in their technology partnership for the Russian market. The new facility covering 59.600 m2 will be an integral part of the global production network of Mercedes Benz Trucks and will closely cooperate with the lead plant in Wörth, Germany. A major benefit of the new facility will be the further localization of truck cabins for both Mercedes Benz and KAMAZ trucks, with more than 150 single components already localized at Russian suppliers” (DAIMLER WEBSITE, 27.05.2019).
DAIMLER KAMAZ RUS:
The Daimler website further informed: “With an investment of 200 million €, the new state-of-the-art production facility creates up to 700 new jobs, bringing the local DK RUS work force to more than 1.000 employees. Following best practices exchange among Daimler Trucks global production experts, the new line serves as a lighthouse project to bring Daimler Trucks expertise to the Russian market.”
Stefan Buchner, Head of Mercedes Benz Trucks worldwide, commented the joint venture with KAMAZ: “We believe in the Russian market and its growth potential. The new cabin facility is another key element in our strategy to be close to our customers and to continuously strengthen our market presence around the globe. With it, we set a benchmark in the Russian market – to the benefit of both, our customers and our joint venture partner KAMAZ. This plant is one of the most innovative facilities in the Russian automotive sector and the latest proof of our longstanding commitment to our joint venture DAIMLER KAMAZ RUS” (DAIMER WEBSITE, 27.05.2019).
KAMAZ in Uzbekistan:
November 2019 was a great month of new beginnings for KAMAZ because the company launched a new assembly line in Uzbekistan. The KAMAZ website reported: “KAMAZ PTC together with UzAuto TRAILER company officially launched a new KAMAZ vehicle chassis assembly line in Samarkand. The ceremony was held within the framework of the working visit of the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov to the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The assembly line is equipped with modern technological and auxiliary equipment, allowing to ensure the production capacity of more than 3.000 units of trucks per year. There is also a section of assembly and installation of gas cylinder equipment on KAMAZ chassis. The assembly line uses localized batteries, petrol, oil and lubricants, gas cylinders and other components of domestic production” (KAMAZ WEBSITE, 26.11.2019).
Furthermore, 110 KAMAZ trucks were delivered to Turkmenistan within the scope of a three-year contract, including shift cars, dump trucks, concrete mixer trucks, fuel trucks and other special vehicles.Turkmenistan will purchase a total number of approximately 2.000 Kamaz vehicles of various modifications under the terms of the three-year contract. The automobiles will be supplied in stages: Kamaz has already delivered more than 600 vehicles as part of the obligations of the contract. All vehicles are delivered by ferry to the international seaport of Turkmenbashi.
The state departments of Turkmenistan are the main clients of KAMAZ vehicles: the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Construction and Architecture, the Ministry of Industry and Communication, the State Committee for Water Resources, the State Corporation “Turkmengeologia”, the State Concern “Turkmenkhimia”, Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery Complex, International Sea Port, etc.
A training and service centre of KAMAZ has been operating in the capital city of Ashgabat on an area of larger than 5.000 km2, since 2008. Alongside the supply of vehicles and their complete technical service, including diagnostics and major repairs, Turkmen specialists are being trained in the centre. The features of the equipment, the operation, maintenance and diagnostics of KAMAZ vehicles are being taught in the establishment. In addition, the service network of KAMAZ has been established in the cities of Balkanabat, Mary, Tashauz and Turkmenabat” (RUS AUTO NEWS, 21.12.2019).
KAMAZ truck hits the water in Russia’s Far East:
KAMAZ is also firmly implanted in Southeast Asia. In 2018, KAMAZ opened a subsidiary in Indonesia to increase the sales of its products. Headquartered in Jakarta, it has 100% foreign authorized capital. The Russian company plans to set up qualified service centres on the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan (TASS, 15.08.2018).
Although business between Russia and Indonesia is good, it could be better: “Bilateral trade between Russia and Indonesia is currently running at about US$50 million, with a similar amount of investment by Russia into the country being made in the past three years. However, as Bambang Brodjenegoro, the Indonesian Minister for National Development and Planning, pointed out, both Indonesia and Russia are G20 nations and given the sizes of their respective economies, they really ought to be doing better. He cited tariffs as being too high and called for a quick resolution to a Russia-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement, either bilaterally or multilaterally, in a reference to an agreement with the EAEU” (ASEAN BRIEFING, 06.09.2019).
KAMAZ in Indonesia:
The huge potential of KAMAZ as a manufacturer of a wide range of top-notch vehicles open up great opportunities for cooperation and promotion of KAMAZ products on the Philippine market, which is one of the most promising markets in Southeast Asia. The memorandum provides for a new network to sell vehicles, spare parts, maintenance and assembly in the Philippines” (ROSTEC.RU, 24.01.2018).
Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, signed the business deal with KAMAZ in Russia:
Besides the Asian continent, the African continent is a good market for KAMAZ, too. Angola and Russia have close ties since Soviet times, and KAMAZ trucks are popular in Angola. Angolan border police uses Russian KAMAZ troop carriers: “Russia’s KAMAZ Trucks has delivered seven new Kamaz troop carriers to Angola for border security police units to prevent smuggling and illegal immigration along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The trucks were commissioned into service by Lunda Norte Provincial Police Commander Gil Famoso Da Silva. The police commander said the trucks would be distributed to the 6th and 7th border patrol units to preserve ‘public tranquillity’ and stem illegal Congolese immigration. In addition to the vehicles, two mobile water treatment and storage systems with a capacity of 5.000 litres each were received.
Twenty new KAMAZ trucks shipped to Angola from the port of Antwerp in Belgium:
According to the Russian manufacturer, KAMAZ offers standardised armoured military trucks which can be used for transportation of personnel, valuable cargoes and explosive material. KAMAZ offers options such as run-flat tyres and can accommodate air conditioning systems, radio and communication equipment.
KAMAZ said that since 1976 it had delivered 230 KAMAZ vehicles to Angola. Some models delivered to the African country include Kamaz-43108 (6×6), Kamaz-43114 (6×6), Kamaz-43118 (6×6) and Kamaz-4208 (6×6) vehicles” (DEFENCE WEB, 28.08.2016).
Map of Angola:
Since 2018, KAMAZ automotive equipment is available for South African buyers. Sales of trucks started at the International Trade Fair for construction machinery, building material machines, mining machines and construction vehicles, Bauma CONEXPO AFRICA, which took place in Johannesburg. KAMAZ took part in the fair for the first time, in 2018, in cooperation with the BELL Equipment Company, their official distributor in Africa.
Customers are offered three modifications of the right-hand drive dump truck with 400 h.p. engines: KAMAZ-6520 (6×4), KAMAZ-65201 (8×4), KAMAZ-65222-63 (6×6), and the 15-ton dump truck KAMAZ-65115-78 powered with a 285 h.p. engine. All trucks featuring dump bodies are produced by NEFAZ, a KAMAZ subsidiary. In association with BELL Equipment, KAMAZ offers an extended 2-year warranty for all of their dump trucks, together with full-service package. Russian automotive equipment is available at BELL Equipment dealers in other African countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius and Madagascar (ROSTEC WEBSITE, 15.03.2018).
KAMAZ trucks in South Africa:
KAMAZ is firmly implanted in Cuba as well. A new KAMAZ centre opened in the special economic development zone «Mariel», in 2019. The construction of the centre was carried out by Autocentro ZED S. A., the official KAMAZ dealer in Cuba. Moreover, during the visit to Cuba, the Russian delegation presented a KAMAZ-5490 NEO tractor unit with a container semi-trailer, a KAMAZ-581460 concrete mixer on 65115 chassis and an isothermal van on a KAMAZ-65117 chassis at the 37th FIHAV International Havana fair (NAPINFO.RU, 27.11.2019).
This is part of Russia’s effort to strengthen ties with Cuba, its old and trustworthy ally from Soviet times. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, said about Cuba: “They deserve more investments from Russia, both in terms of finances and equipment, of course, but also in terms of human resources. We should definitely assist Cuba, we should help Cuba, we should support Cuba” (CSMONITOR, 29.10.2019).
KAMAZ in Cuba:
Meanwhile, KAMAZ is developing a new series of trucks for the future as part of its business plan for 2020. According to its website, Sergei Kogogin, Director General of KAMAZ PTC, announced the main task that the company and its staff need to solve in 2020: the launch of K5 generation mainline vehicles, which meet the world level in terms of technical characteristics and consumer properties. «The most important thing is to bring K5 to the market. This is probably the biggest challenge, how quickly we can start earning on it».
In 2020, KAMAZ plans to sell 35.700 cars, with 29.000 units delivered to the Russian market and 6.700 to foreign markets. The share of KAMAZ in the Russian truck market will increase up to 46%. According to this business-plan, KAMAZ will invest 14.1 billion rubles in the development of production. Net profit should reach 288 million rubles, planned revenue 204 billion rubles (KAMAZ.RU, 30.12.2019).
KAMAZ has reached a good position on the global market for trucks. It is currently number 16 in production volumes of heavy-duty trucks with GVW exceeding 16 tonnes. KAMAZ might rise further in the world listing during the next decade. With a new line of modern vehicles to be sold worldwide, this Russian company is racing into the future with confidence and aplomb.
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.
This text also appeared in THE DURAN: