SOVIET LEADER Leonid Brezhnev signed a deal with Fiat in the mid-1960s to build a car factory on the Volga River.
Work began in 1967 and by 1970 the plant in the city of Togliatti was turning out sedans based on the Fiat 124. The cars were named Zhigulis in Russia and Ladas abroad.
Since then, AutoVAZ (Volga Automobile Works) has built more than 16 million cars.
The factory is the largest industrial complex in Russia, excluding oil and gas refineries.
AutoVAZ dominates Togliatti, employing a third of the city's 700,000 residents.
The carmaker operates the local hospital and the major recreational facilities, including a major ice hockey arena.
AutoVAZ is the most highly integrated auto plant in the world. Cars are made almost entirely in Togliatti.
Only tires, windows, and some electrical components come from outside the main production complex.
The plant has four assembly lines. Only three are currently running. AutoVAZ can produce around one million cars a year. Last year, 673,000 were built.
AutoVAZ builds the lower-medium class Samara three-, four-and five-door models, the long-serving Fiat-124-based Nova and the four-wheel-drive Niva.
A new series of upper-medium Ladas has just started production. The 2110 is a sedan, and a 2111 station wagon is planned. The car has been developed with help from Porsche Engineering.