Lada, the group’s Russian brand, is scheduled to get two versions of the model, both of which will bear the Niva name, recalling the rugged small utility vehicle that debuted in the 1970s (and is still sold in Russia as the Lada 4×4). De Meo said the new Niva, expected to have retro styling influences, like the coming Renault 5 small electric vehicle, had the potential to “ignite” the brand in Russia.
“It’s going to be like bringing the 500 to life,” he said, referring to the relaunch of the 500 minicar that was credited with reviving the brand in the 2010s, when de Meo was Fiat CEO.
The Niva will be more off-road oriented than the Bigster, de Meo said.
“Our way of understanding the brand was to imagine the Niva as a technical product, as kind of a purpose design for extreme conditions, heavy usage; a little bit like a (Land Rover) Defender or Suzuki Jimny,” he said.
“It will have short gearing, a high stance, and very good attack angles for off road utilization,” he added. “It’s a very simple and practical car – we can sell it in Switzerland, in Austria, to a buyer who has a chalet and this is the only way he can get there.”
“We know there’s a market” in Europe for a Niva with those characteristics, he said. “It won’t be 100,000 cars, but it will be a profitable market niche,” he added.
There will also be Renault branded versions of the car, which will be sold in markets outside of Europe such as South America, although de Meo did not offer details except to say that there would be “a big differentiation in design.“