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GM Gives Russia a Test-Drive

Rich Smith
June 14, 2006

Question: What's the first thing a Russian does after buying a new car?

Answer: Fix the broken parts.

Unfortunately, that's been less of a joke and more of a truism for Russian car buyers. Faced with the option of buying a secondhand, probably hot, certainly pricey "Western" car imported from Europe, or a brand spanking new Volga, Lada, or Zaporozhets of domestic manufacture, most Russians opted for the former. And the first thing they did after buying the thing was figure out which parts were defective and fix them.

Which is precisely why I'm so optimistic about the prospects for General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) in Russia. Tuesday, CEO Rick Wagoner officiated at the opening of GM's first in-country automobile assembly plant, in St. Petersburg. In doing so, the company joined rivals Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) , Nissan (Nasdaq: