Tycoon delays Russia's first hybrid car launch

Sep 03, 2012
A sport coupe version of the "Yo Mobile" hybrid car, pictured at a 2010 launch in Moscow. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's auto division announced Monday it was delaying until late 2014 this year's planned launch of the petrol-guzzling country's first hybrid vehicle.

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's auto division announced Monday it was delaying until late 2014 this year's planned launch of the petrol-guzzling country's first hybrid vehicle.

But it also insisted the "Yo Mobile" was never meant to be a publicity stunt to win the politically ambitious tycoon votes in this spring's presidential elections, and promised the colourful new cars would still get built.

"Many detractors will now say that this was just a Mikhail Prokhorov PR campaign," project general director Andrei Biryukov told the Interfax news agency after tendering his resignation because of the delay.

"But this is not the case and he continues to fund the joint venture."

Biryukov blamed the delay on a US supplier he did not name that was responsible for providing body parts.

The eye-catching little vehicles were designed to introduce a fresh new look to Russian streets now clogged with remnants of exhaust-fuming Soviet-era makes and huge SUVs and luxury sedans from the United States and Germany.

Russian President drove one of the cars to a government meeting while serving as prime minister in April 2011 and joked that it did not look very tough.

Mikhail Prokhorov attends a ceremony last year to mark the laying of the founding stone of a plant that will produce hybrid cars outside Saint-Petersburg. The eye-catching little vehicles were designed to introduce a fresh new look to Russian streets now clogged with remnants of exhaust-fuming Soviet-era makes and huge SUVs and luxury sedans from the United States and Germany.

"The Yo-Mobile will not fall apart along the way, will it?" Putin asked with a grin at the time.

But the project also supported Prokhorov's bid to build a more modern image as an oligarch who tries to connect with youth through his ownership of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets basketball team and occasional support for liberal Russian causes.

The 47-year-old—last estimated to be worth more than $12 billion by —placed a strong third in the March presidential ballot with a surprising eight percent of the vote.

His campaign came during a wave of street protests against Putin's impending return to the Kremlin and Prokhorov styled himself as a compromise figure who would introduce more liberal economic ideas.

He has largely shunned politics since and is still in the process of forming his own political party while refusing to criticise Putin directly.

Business daily Kommersant said the joint venture between Prokhorov's Oneximbank bank and a small truck manufacturer called Yarovit Motors had already invested 80 million euros ($100 million) in the vehicle's Saint Petersburg production plant.

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antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 03, 2012
That is one of the most awkward photos of anyone I've ever seen. What was the photographer thinking?

well, I hope they still get those hybrids made. it's a bit lonely on the hybrid market at the moment.
dschlink
not rated yet Sep 03, 2012
A body part supplier causing a two-year delay? I could believe a problem with the battery, but sheet metal bending is 19th century stuff.
The Singularity
not rated yet Sep 03, 2012
No doubt written by an American. If any country is seen as "gas guzzling" it's YOU. Thanks for the laugh though.
tim_jonson_9883
not rated yet Sep 03, 2012
@dschlink: Nothing to do with bending, it's large scale steel stamping. It's a huge investment and a huge undertaking.
@The Singularity: Classic shallow european hater. No one was even talking about gas-guzzling, and try to learn decent sentence construction.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 04, 2012
Classic shallow european hater.


Americans drive 3 times as much as Europeans, and use twice the fuel per mile on average, even though 2/3 of Americans live in urbanized areas with population densities comparable to France.

It's difficult to top that, even in Russia.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 04, 2012
It's difficult to top that, even in Russia.

The cities are pretty sprawling (and the traffic conditions are crazy last I was there..which is admittedly 20 years ago. But I can't imagine the cities having gotten smaller and traffic has, if anything increased because now people can afford cars).
Cities like St. Petersburg are comparable in size and population to LA. Moscow is like New York (in size and population density).
When you get further out distances become really big to get anywhere (though to be fair, there's a sizeable portion of traffic that is handled by rail. Almost 1.5 billion passengers per year - as compared to 30 million in the US)
The Singularity
not rated yet Sep 07, 2012

@The Singularity: Classic shallow european hater.

Classic knee jerk response. Petrol is called Gas over there, is'nt it?