From the legendary AK-47 assault rifle to a remarkable foray into the field of electric vehicles, including drones and yachts, Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov is undergoing unprecedented transformation in its 200-year history.
It is with amazement that visitors to a military forum in the Moscow region were able to discover last week a small pastel blue car, with a licked vintage design inspired by a rare model from the Soviet era.
With his new “super-electric car” CV-1, Kalashnikov managed to rustle the canvas, wiping a few mocking jokes against the ambition to compete with the American Tesla.
The manufacturer is known for its weapons of war, and the name of the inventor of AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has become synonymous with assault rifle around the world, and the weapon of choice for countless conflicts and civil wars.
Today, Kalashnikov produces 95% of Russian small arms and exports to 27 countries, while his famous rifle, which the group simply calls “the biggest rifle of the 20th century”, is in its fifth generation.
Founded in Izmir (1,300 kilometers east of Moscow) in 1807, the Ijmach factory has undergone a series of upheavals since 2013, when Rostec, the controlling public holding company, merged it with a neighboring factory, Ijmekh, and renamed the entire name of its most famous employee, Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died at the end of 2013 at the age of 94.
One of the last public acts of the world’s best selling rifle maker was denouncing to President Vladimir Putin the decline of the company, mismanagement and low wages of the workers.
Caps, umbrellas and plastic rifles
After the arrival of private shareholders in 2014, new models were presented (assault rifles, hunting rifles, handguns …), a change of image made with the launch of clothes, knives and knives. ‘accessories, and the focus has been on exports despite US sanctions hitting the company because of the Ukrainian crisis.
Now, caps, umbrellas and plastic rifles are available in Kalashnikov souvenir shops.
Result of these changes: Kalashnikov announced in January 2017 a 30% increase in its workforce with 1700 hires to meet the increase in its exports.
Following the introduction of sanctions against him, Kalashnikov transformed his new subsidiary to open the US market to a separate company, Kalashnikov USA, manufacturing his own weapons.
In February 2017, the state becomes a minority: the giant military-industrial conglomerate Rostec sells the majority of the shares to the group’s managing director Alexey Krivoruchko, already a shareholder.
More civil activities
This growing development of civilian products is also in line with that of Rostec, which wants to increase the share of its civil activity to 50% by 2025, relying in particular on exports.
With his new models of electric vehicles, Kalashnikov is embarking on a promising sector with a bright future, which is still in its infancy in Russia. This summer, the group provided 30 electric motorcycles and three-wheelers to the police during the soccer World Cup.
“Next year, we are launching the sale of our first electric motorcycle,” said Vladimir Dmitriev, interim CEO since Alexei Krivoruchko took a job at the Ministry of Defense.
We talk about electro-mobility because we understand that sooner or later the engine will disappear.
Olga Boitsova, Commercial Director for Civil Products
In 2018-2019, the group is also expected to start supplying motorcycles and electric cars to the UAE.
When the prototype vintage inspired, with a range of 350 km, it is likely to be changed and it is unclear if and when it would be launched on the market.
“As reliable as a Kalashnikov rifle”
At the forum, 27-year-old student Dmitri Rodionov described her as “funny” and “interestingly designed” and jovial sexagenarian Elena Rajina thinks she will be “as reliable as a Kalashnikov rifle and will conquer the whole world. ”
But others are more skeptical and ridiculous mockery raining on social networks face this diversification all over the place.
“Your tanks are great, but you’d better drop the cars,” he said on Facebook. “Is this a gag? Wondered the site EngineNature.com, dedicated to the ecological automobile.
A rage of sarcasm has also fallen on the Russian social networks on the prototype nicknamed Igorek, “little Igor”, a biped war robot supposed to help soldiers to move in a hostile environment.
Also presented at the forum, it was compared to the old-fashioned models of the first Star Wars movies, dating back to the 1980s.