By Vladimir Bibikov
In August 2011, Minsk Automobile Works is launching its latest truck, which is destined to be a sensation. The three axis trailer for long-haul will be able to carry cargoes of up to 60 tonnes (rather than the traditional 40 tonnes) and will have its engine placed in front of the cabin, American-style. According to Alexander Borovsky, MAZ Director General, this arrangement protects drivers in case of accident, while enabling more comfortable conditions inside the cabin, including a sleeping space. The ‘auto-liner’ is primarily designed for transcontinental highways such as international transport corridors Berlin-Minsk-Moscow and further on till the Pacific Ocean and Beijing and Scandinavia-Russia-Belarus-Ukraine-Black Sea.
Taking into account the modern condition of these highways, the new trucks allow more efficient use of Belarus’ unique transit potential. In due time, MAZ plans to produce articulated lorries, which are even more efficient for long-haul journeys. These will be the descendants of the famous MAZ ‘Perestroika-2000’, which was awarded a Grand Prix at the International Car Salon in Paris.
Why is MAZ’s leadership so confident in announcing the deadline for its original innovation? Just a year ago, the plant found itself in a difficult situation, as did similar enterprises all over the globe. Today, sales have returned to pre-crisis levels, exceeding 22,000 units in 2010: trucks, buses and trailers. There is even a waiting list for some models. This year alone, the company has produced 16 new models, with more scheduled for the near future. Its technical level is being ever improved upon, with $600m being spent on MAZ reconstruction in coming years, doubling its output of trucks.
“If we don’t move with the times, we’ll fail to compete with the leading market players,” asserts Mr. Borovsky. “We have a clear vision of the direction in which MAZ should advance; we plan to create a vehicle which matches our best European rivals.”
The enterprise’s five year renovation programme envisages a considerable rise in export sales. At present, MAZ’s share of the Russian market (its largest buyer) is stagnating; however, deliveries to other countries look set to rise 6-7-fold. The establishment of assembly lines in other countries is another aid to the expansion of MAZ’s presence on traditional and new markets. Assembly factories are already operating in Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Egypt, with Hungary being next in line.
Additionally, MAZ is constantly expanding its range, building on the popularity it enjoys in many countries. It’s known for its comfortable and reliable medium and large-class buses, and inter-city and tourist buses. It recently demonstrated two mini-bus models, designed for commercial development in the years to come.
An example of MAZ’s first vehicle — a five tonne heavy-duty dump truck — has been mounted on a pedestal close to the factory’s administration building, with the ‘Perestroika-2000’ concept car solemnly unveiled nearby. The past and the future of the country’s largest enterprise are conjoined here. The enterprise will now name its vehicles not just with numbers, but with immediately recognisable names.