Russian Oligarch Moves Forward With Plans for 'World's Cheapest Hybrid'

Russia’s richest and most well-known oligarch has embarked on a new business venture: seeking to build and market the world’s most affordable hybrid vehicles. Mikhail Prokhorov’s ONEXIM investment group has reportedly invested €150 million in project, along with additional backing from the Russian government. The first car will begin testing in December, and is expected to hit roads in 2012 at a price that has been estimated in the $10,000-$13,000 range.

In May, Prokhorov gave the first details on the venture, which he says is based around the development of a hybrid platform that can run on either petroleum or liquified natural gas. The drivetrain will be adaptable for use in three vehicles: a truck, a sportscar, and an affordable city car that the tycoon promises will be “a multimedia center on wheels.”

“The auto industry is moving to simpler, greener cars,” said Prokhorov at the time. “These are as simple to assemble as toys, so our country has been given a chance to compete, because foreign carmakers will need time to adapt to this new trend.”

The bluster in Prokhorov’s awkwardly-translated statements shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen his 60 Minutes profile—which aired last year after he made headlines in the U.S. by purchasing the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise. Prokhorov is confident that his cars will be able to compete because of their blend of affordability and technological ambition—so confident in fact, that he seems to have nicknamed the city car after himself, calling it the “Mischa-Mobile.”

Next year, ONEXIM and its partner Yarovit Motors will begin renovations on a Yarovit facility in the former Russian automotive hub of Togliatti. That facility will be capable of producing 10,000 cars a year, but with the backing of the Russian government and one of the world’s richest men, it’s possible that additional capacity could be added as quickly as demand dictates. Prokhorov says that as sales numbers begin to approach 100,000 units a year, the price of the car may drop to as little as $7,000.

Hopefully, the engineers working on this project don’t share in Prokhorov’s assessment of how easy it is to build and design a new vehicle. Assuming the “Mischa-Mobile” does reach road-readiness though—and can be sold as cheaply as promised—its success should be interesting monitor in the coming years.

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  • JamesDavis

    We will never see that car in America unless Mikhail Prokhorov puts a sticker price tag on it at around $40,000.00. Here in America, Prokhorov’s car will end up like the Chinese car – $2,500.00 in China – $12,000.00 in America.

    It is really sad and shocking, the author of this article should apologize to Prokhorov for the belittlement in the last paragraph.

  • Mr. Fusion

    Will it run on Vodka?

  • Shines

    The closest thing to a Russian made vehicle I’ve ever riden in was a Yugo. It was a very cheap car litteraly – small and fragile. I predict that when Prokorof tries to sell the cheap hybrid (subsidized by the Russian Govt) in the US he will complain loudly about all the safety requirements that must be met. The fact that Japanese, Korean, European and American car companies can meet the requirements won’t deter him from complaining.
    As far as the author apologizing – why don’t we wait and see what is produced before passing judgement ;-|

  • Shines

    Oh and as far a running on Vodka – wouldn’t any E85 flex fuel vehicle run on 170 proof Vodka? ;-D

  • Capt. Concernicus

    Oh I’m so very excited about buying this car. That there was a VERY sarcastic statement.

    Besides vodka, oil, natural gas, foodstuff and certain gun who says to anybody, “Gosh! I really have to get my hands on that Russian made (fill in objects name here)!”? Exactly. No one. I guarantee that this will be a pet project that will hit so many snags that eventually it’ll just fall by the wayside.

  • Joe

    Wait & see if it is like government car made in 1975? Trabant was a communist car, powered by a two-stroke engine 18 hp. You put oil and gas in it and jump on the bumper to mix gas and oil. That is where we are heading if GM does not get Obama adminstration out of the board room!

  • Max Reid

    Russians have top-class Rocket technology, unfortunately they dont have auto technology.

    But if Indians can make $2K car (Tata Nano), Russians can also make a hybrid for $10K, but it will be sold at around $30K unless that same company sets up their own dealerships.


    Dear Sirs,

    Could you make us in relationship with Mr. Mikhail Prokhorov ?

    Awaitting your response,



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