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On Tuesday in Togliatti, Russia, I toured the production facility of the Chevy Niva (pictured above), a joint venture between GM and Russia's AutoVAZ. The vehicles are one of the best-selling SUVs in Russia right now, and there is a 3-month waiting list to get the vehicles. This situation is somewhat unique to the Niva, most other vehicles in Russia are available immediately. The Nivas sell for about $16,000 and there are only two models and one option: with A/C, or without A/C. Also, there are NO radios available in either model, although the Nivas come radio-ready, with wiring and everything except the audio equipment. It seems that in the Russian market, consumers prefer to purchase their own radio/stereo equipment as an after-market option. It might also be the case that some customers prefer radio only, others prefer audio cassette tapes, and some others prefer CD players.

When in Moscow today, I asked the President of GM Russia why GM/AutoVAZ didn't raise the price of Nivas to reduce the 3-month waiting list, and she said that Russian Niva consumers would easily tolerate a 3-month wait, but many would NOT tolerate a price increase. Go figure.

Related: The fascinating chart below is from a USAToday article last week, showing the significant increase in options considered "essential" to car buyers in the USA, 1985 vs. 2007. Notice that in 1985, fewer than 9% of car buyers considered car radios to be an essential option, vs. 96% today - what a difference 22 years makes!

Another difference: almost 100% of the cars in Russia are standard transmission, vs. almost 0% in the USA, and it seems that the acceptance of automatic transmissions here is a long way off - Russian drivers love their manual transmissions!

Source: Vehicle Options: USA (1985 vs. 2007) vs. Russia