UAZ is an automobile manufacturer based in Ulyanovsk, Russia. Production started in 1941 and they make jeeps, buses and trucks.
In 1941, after the start of Great Patriotic War, Stalin's goverment was making every effort possible to try and save Soviet industry from being captured by Reich army. So, in 1941, in the view of quick advances of Germans on Moscow, a decision was made to relocate ZIS - a Moscow car and freighter manufacturing plant - further away from front lines. Such place was chosen to be Ulyanovsk, a Siberian town with existing infrastructure and skilled workers, but out of reach of German army. At that time, the plant has been considered a subsidiary of ZIS. By 1942, the production of artillery shells and cars has begun.
In 1943, when the prospect of Germans winning the war was more dim, a decision was made to separate the relocated plant from ZIS. This was a part of general after-war policy conducted by Stalin government when relocated plants were separated into different units, since all the required buildings have already been erected. On the contrary, the existing plants before relocation were filled with (often - German) equipment, thus bursting the industry.
A logical choise for the newly created plant was to produce military and paramilitary cars, mostly due to its distance from the border. Therefore, in mid-1950es the production of the only Soviet offroad car, GAZ-69, has been moved to Ulyanovsk. This car marked a beginning of a famous line of off-road vehicles manufactured by the plant.
By mid-60es, the new management of the plant has completed development of first original UAZ cars. The GAZ-69 offroad vehicle was replaced by UAZ-469. UAZ-469 was very similar in design to the original Jeep - a sturdy, but not-so-comfortable car that was able to drive in virtually any terrain and was easy to fix. Unfortunately, the car wasn't very reliable, and its transmission problems achieved nearly legendary status (although transmission was a weak spot in nearly all Soviet cars). The car didn't enter personal use market until late 80es and was reserved to use in police forces and paramilitary (its commercially-available analog was being produced by LuAZ, which was too close to border to be associated with the military).
In 1966, UAZ rolled out its pickup-truck/minibus UAZ-452, whic received warm wellcome by the farmers due to convenience and off-road capability. Although this automobile was mostly reserved for police and army use, it has seen a lot more civil use than most other UAZ cars.
After the collapse of Soviet Union, UAZ has started feeling the heat. On one hand, people were willing to buy its cars due to high reputation; on the other hand, most preferred used imported offroad cars due to lack of reliability of UAZ cars. As a far cry UAZ produced a slightly modified version of its original UAZ-469 car, UAZ Hunter, but the sales were still lacking. However, UAZ cars started being imported into USA as inexpensive, heavy-duty hunter vehicles that could be operated virtually anywhere.
In 2004, the plant has been bought out by Severstal financial group, which made a lot of investments into manufacturing lines. In 2005, a new SUV-like car, UAZ Patriot, has been unveiled. Extensive use of third-party parts (which finally allowed to replace notorious transmission with a better, Korean-manufactured one), large capacity, good offroad capabilities and affordable price (<15 000 USD)predict good sales in Russia.
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