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Lada: The Russian car that was sold in Canada

Updated on July 17, 2012

In the early 1980s the Soviet Union invaded Canada!

They didn't do so militarily. They tried to do it with auto exports. For almost the next twenty years, Russian cars would be sold in the Great White North.

Unfortunately, the Lada sedan never received this kind of fanfare in Canada.
Unfortunately, the Lada sedan never received this kind of fanfare in Canada.

While many sources state that Ladas started to be sold in Canada in 1980, the first shipment of Model 1500 sedans occurred in 1978. The Soviet Union was desperate to sell goods as they needed hard currency. A dealer network was established by 1980. The tough little 'Zhiguli' was somewhat popular, being the cheapest car in Canada (most years). It's competition was Skoda and, to a lesser extent, Dacias were also sold here. By 1986 the Yugo made an appearance. Many Ladas were assembled in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


The 2106: A common site on Canadian roads in the 1980s.
The 2106: A common site on Canadian roads in the 1980s.

The little sedan was one of the cheapest cars available and they would soon become eye-sores as they began to rust out.

But the Russian automaker had a cute little jeep named the Niva, comparable to a Suzuki Samurai or GMC Tracker, that still has a small following in Canada-and a larger one around the world. The Niva, introduced in 1978, continues to be made today...

And there's room for two different Niva models...

Under a joint venture with G.M., Lada now builds an alternate Niva. The 'Chevy' Niva is smooth, aerodynamic: It looks like a Toyota. It is not representative of the utilitarian design that Lada fans expect. The original Niva is still built: The 2011 model looks, at least in the front, exactly as it did in 1977.

Niva Commercial

By the 1990s the Samara found it's way to the Canadian market. It was a slightly more modern looking car then the original sedan that it replaced. It  was also available as a sedan or a hatchback.

Lada ended its operations in Canada in 1997 because they couldn't compete with the low cost South Korean automakers.

Wikipedia reports that production of the Samara ceased in 2004 in favour of the Riva. There wrong! The Samara is still being made instead of the Riva. It is now more streamlined looking, though.

The Riva, which is nicknamed the Mercedes of Russia because of its classy looking grill, is still made in Egypt by a subsidary of the Alamal-Group.

A Quebec Samara commercial...

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