Automotive Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Automotive Industry


The automotive industry got its start at the end of the 19th century in a number of countries. In 1900, 4,192 motor vehicles were manufactured in the United States, 2,000 in France, and 355 in Italy. The increased production of motor vehicles was favored by the development of several branches of industry directly or in directly linked to the manufacture or use of such vehicles: the petroleum industry (gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oils, and lubricants), the chemical industry (lacquers, paints, car window glass, tires, and plastics), the metallurgical industry (special steels), the textile industry, and others.

Prerevolutionary Russia did not have its own automotive industry as a specialized branch. The Russo-Baltic carriage-building plant in Riga, which achieved the ability to produce motor vehicles in 1908, turned out only 451 passenger cars and a small number of trucks and specialized motor vehicles during its entire period of operation, until its evacuation in 1915. In August 1915, in order to organize motor vehicle production to meet the needs of the army, five companies were formed in Russia with the help of government credit. Construction began on several automotive plants: the Moscow Automotive Society (AMO) plant in Moscow, the Russo-Balt Administration plant in the Moscow vicinity, the Russian Renault plant in Rybinsk, the V. A. Lebedev plant in

Table 1. Motor vehicle output in the USSR, 1924–30
Trucks . . . .101163664757401,4714,019
Cars . . . . . . .350156160
Buses . . . . .518547
Total . . . .101163664788411,7124,226

Yaroslavl, and the Aksai plant in Rostov-on-Don. It was projected that from the second half of 1916 these plants would together produce 6,750 passenger cars and 3,750 trucks a year; however, none of the plants was completed by that time.

In the USSR the first ten AMO-F-15 1.5–ton trucks were produced in 1924 at the AMO plant. In 1925 motor vehicle production began at the Yaroslavl plant. The growth of the automotive industry in the USSR passed through several stages. During the first period (1924–30) production emphasis was on trucks which were built as individual units or in small lots (see Table 1). Passenger-car production of the NAMI-1 model was organized in Moscow in 1927–28 at the Spartak plant.

The second period (1931–41) was characterized by the organization of production in large lots, as well as the organization of mass production, and by the establishment of specialized vehicle production. The industrialization of the country and collectivization of agriculture significantly increased the need for motor transport. In 1928–29 plans were adopted for the building of auto plants in Moscow and Gorky. On Oct. 1, 1931, the Moscow auto plant (AMO), now the Likhachev auto plant (ZIL), which had been reconstructed to produce 25,000 3–ton trucks a year, began operations. On Jan. 1, 1932, the Gorky auto plant, designed to produce 100,000 vehicles a year, went into production. In 1932–33 work began on further increasing the capacity of automotive plants. Production rose rapidly.

In 1932 the GAZ-A passenger car began to come off the line at the Gorky plant (the M-l model came out in 1936). In 1936 the Moscow plant began to turn out the six-passenger ZIS-101 automobile. The KIM Moscow vehicle-assembly plant (1930) was reconstructed and expanded in 1938–39 to mass-produce compact passenger cars, and by May 1, 1940, the first three models were out. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, roughly 500 cars, designated KIM-10, had been manufactured. In 1933 the Moscow plant turned out the 21–passenger ZIS-8 bus; in 1934, the ZIS-12 bus, an improved model; and just before the war, the 26–passenger ZIS-16. The manufacture of double-axle trucks as well as of vehicles with higher cross-country ability was developed. The ZIS-6 triple-axle truck, with a load capacity of 2.5 tons and up to 4 tons on hard-surface roads, was first produced in 1933. In 1935 the Gorky plant began to manufacture the GAZ-30 triple-axle truck, with a 2-ton load capacity. The production of dump trucks and chassis for various special-purpose vehicles also began at that time (see Table 2).

Table 2. Motor vehicle output in the USSR, 1931–1940 (in thousands)
Trucks ..............3.923.7539.154.676.9131.5180.3182.4178.8136.0
Cars ................0.0310.317.119.03.718.
Buses ...............
Total ..............4.023.8849.772.496.7136.5199.8211.1201.7145.4

During the Great Patriotic War the Urals automotive plant was built in Miass, Cheliabinsk Oblast, along with two plants to supply it—a pressing and forging plant in Cheliabinsk and a plant producing assembly units in Shadrinsk, Kurgan Oblast. In 1942–43 the Urals plant delivered engines and transmissions to the Moscow plant and other plants and in July 1944 began to produce 3–ton trucks.

In the postwar period, along with the rebuilding and expansion of existing plants, the following new plants were built and began to manufacture motor vehicles: the Minsk plant, designed for production of double-axle trucks with a load capacity of 6–7 tons (1947); the Kutaisi plant, designed to make ZIS-150 trucks (1951); and the Ul’ianovsk plant, designed to make GAZ-69 (in production since 1954) passenger cars with higher cross-country ability. At the Moscow compact-car plant, production of Moskvich-400 compact cars began in 1947. Bus production began at the L’vov plant in 1956 and at the Pavlovo plant, Gorky Oblast, in 1953. The manufacture of the ZIL-110 high-quality passenger car was organized at the Moscow plant in 1945. Automotive plants introduced newer models in 1947–48 (truck models GAZ-51, GAZ-63, ZIS-150, ZIS-151, Ural-355M, IaAZ-210, MAZ-200, MAZ-205, etc.; passenger car models Pobeda and GAZ-69). The variety of vehicles was expanded. Besides drop-side trucks, there was increased production of dump trucks, vehicles with higher cross-country ability, compressed-gas trucks, ambulances, fire trucks, and so forth. The new models were superior to the prewar ones in durability, comfort, and horsepower and had a lower rate of specific fuel consumption.

The automotive industry has undergone further development since the late 1950’s. The Kremenchug plant for the manufacture of heavy dump trucks with a load capacity of 10–12 tons and of drop-side trucks with a 12–14–ton capacity began operations in 1959. The Byelorussian auto plant for the production of open-cut mine dumpers with a load capacity of 25–40 tons also went into operation in 1959. Assembly plants for dump trucks were built in Saransk, Mordovian ASSR, in 1958 and in Frunze, Kirghiz SSR, in 1965. The Kommunar plant in Zaporozh’e was reconstructed to mass-produce the Zaporozhets subcompact car beginning in 1960. Manufacture of the 60–passenger LIAZ-158 city bus was organized in the town of Likino-Dulevo, Moscow Oblast, beginning in 1959. In Kurgan production of a 20–passenger single-door bus for short-haul transport began in 1958, and in Riga production began in 1957 on the RAF limited-capacity bus, used as a fixed-route taxi or for service calls (see Table 3).

The decisions of the Twenty-third Congress of the CPSU in 1966 provided for the further development of the automobile industry in the USSR. The largest automobile plant will be the Volga plant in Tol’iatti (Togliatti), constructed from 1966 to 1970, which is intended to produce 660,000 compact cars a year. The Moscow compact-car plant is being expanded, and compact-car production is being organized in Izhevsk. The major plants have begun to produce new and improved models: the ZIL-130 and ZIL-131 (1967) at the Moscow plant; the GAZ-53A (1965) and GAZ-66 (1966) at the Gorky plant; the Ural-375 (1962) and Ural-377 (1966) at the Urals plant; the MAZ-500, MAZ-503, and MAZ-504 (1965) at the Minsk plant; and so on. The newer models have added carrying capacity, increased horsepower, and almost double the expected lifetime. There have been increases in the output of such specialized vehicles as tank trucks, vans, dump trucks, and tractor-trailers. The production of trailers, units, and spare parts has been greatly developed.

Table 3. Motor vehicle output in the USSR, 1945–1968 (in thousands)
Trucks ..68.6294.5328.1362.0379.6407.6437.4478.1
Cars ...5.064.4107.8138.8201.2230.3251.4280.3
Buses ...
Total ..74.7362.9445.3523.6616.3675.2728.8800.8

Automobiles are produced by the assembly-line method. The degree of mechanization and automation is high, and specialization is being developed. Through the cooperative system automobile plants receive electrical equipment; ball and roller bearings; rubber, plastic, and glass items; a wide assortment of sections, special assemblies, and such units as carburetors and shock absorbers; paints; lacquers; fabrics; and so forth. The Urals, Minsk, Ul’ianovsk, Kremenchug, Byelorussian, and Zaporozh’e plants, all of which were built during or after the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), receive engines, transmissions, shafts, springs, wheels, and radiators from other plants. Certain plants also receive semifinished products such as ferrous- and nonferrousmetal castings. Specialization has also been extended to the ZIL and GAZ plants, which were formerly integrated enterprises. The production of compressors for pneumatic brakes, shafts, radiators, drive axles, and differentials for three-axle vehicles has been transferred to specialized plants from the Moscow plant. For its new models, the GAZ plant receives engines from a specialized engine plant. In 1959 the Yaroslavl plant ceased automobile production, which was transferred to Kremenchug, and became an en-Table 4. Motor vehicle output in socialist countries

Table 4. Motor vehicle output in socialist countries
1 Including buses
2 Data for 1956
Trucks .................2,9702,9234,3523,447
Buses .................7201,8922,7793,456
Total ..............3,6904,8157,1316,903
German Democratic Republic    
Trucks1 ................14,19112,86415,00022,585
Cars ..................22,24764,07195,000111,516
Total ..............36,43876,935110,000134,101
People’s Republic of China    
Trucks .................3,1009,000
Cars ..................
Total ..............3,1009,000
Trucks1 ................12,47324,00034,20036,050
Cars ..................4,00012,90026,40027,880
Total ..............16,47336,90060,60063,930
Trucks1 ................5,20012,10022,80022,196
Cars ..................5,610
Total ..............5,200212,10022,80027,806
Trucks1 ................13,98018,73314,00821,456
Cars ..................12,53056,21177,705111,718
Total ..............26,51074,94491,713133,174
Trucks1 ................3,1915,46011,85912,100
Cars ..................99010,46135,88047,900
Total ..............4,181215,92147,73960,000

gine plant. A factory was built in Gorky Oblast, and it has been manufacturing carburetor engines for passenger cars and trucks since 1960. Various specialized enterprises have been created: a power-unit plant for subcompact cars in Melitopol’ (in operation since 1960); a compressor plant in Panevežis, Lithuanian SSR (1959); a fuel-equipment plant in Yaroslavl (1960); a brake-equipment plant in Poltava, Ukrainian SSR (1959); shaft plants in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR (1959), and Grodno, Byelorussian SSR (1959); and radiator plants in Frunze, Kirghiz SSR (1959), and Likhoslavl’, Kalinin Oblast (1959). A pressing plant has been constructed at Tokmak, Ukrainian SSR (1965), and a foundry for iron and steel automotive castings has been under con-Table 5. Motor vehicle output in capitalist countries, 1967

Table 5. Motor vehicle output in capitalist countries, 1967
 TotalCarsTrucks and Buses
USA ................. .9,023,7267,412,6591,611,077
Japan ..................3,173,0001,375,8001,797,200
Federal Republic of Germany .............2,480,9002,295,700185,200
France .................2,009,7001,751,800257,900
England ................1,947,3001,552,000395,300
Canada ..............938,000713,000225,000

struction in Saransk, Mordovian ASSR, according to 1968 data. The specialized plants use high-productivity equipment and advanced production techniques.

Automobile production is also constantly expanding in other socialist countries (see Table 4).

Of the capitalist countries, the USA has the most highly developed automobile industry (see Table 5). In all capitalist countries an overwhelming proportion of automobile production is in the hands of a small number of large monopolies.


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Dinershtein, M. A., and P. M. Katsura. Zadachi iperspektivy razvitiia avtomobil’noi promyshlennosti SSSR v 1966–1970 gg. Moscow, 1967.
Polveka truda i stroitel’stva: Istoriia laroslavskogo ordena Lenina motornogo (avtomobil’nogo) zavoda 1916–1966. Yaroslavl, 1966.
Gor’kovskii avtomobil’nyi: Ocherk istorii zavoda. [Moscow, 1964.]
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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