New Plant to Build Chevrolets for Central Asian Markets

General Motors dismisses speculation that Chevrolets built at the plant in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, will be exported to Russia.

Eugene Gerden, Correspondent

May 1, 2023

2 Min Read
Chevrolet Cobalt Uzbekistan 23
Uzbekistan-built Chevrolet Cobalt to get Kyrgyzstan-built sibling.

ST. PETERSBURG – An Uzbekistan-based automaker that assembles Chevrolet vehicles under license from General Motors plans to expand into the neighboring Central Asia country of Kyrgyzstan.

Production is expected to launch this summer at the $50 million, built-from-scratch plant to be jointly operated by Uzavtosanoat and Kyrgyz automotive supplier DT Technik. The factory is located outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic which attained independence as the USSR collapsed in 1991.

A report by Kyrgyzstan Deputy Minister of Economy and Commerce Ainura Usenbekova, cited in the Kyrgyz business publication Tazabek, says the project is being implemented in three stages. Plans call for building up to 10,000 vehicles from semi-knocked-down kits within 12 to 20 months of the plant’s commissioning, and the creation of 500 jobs.

Output is targeted at 20,000 units, along with the simultaneous launch of components production, by 2027. The plant by 2030 is to begin building up to 30,000 vehicles a year from complete-knocked-down kits and employ 3,000 people.

The first vehicles to be assembled at the plant will be Chevrolet Cobalt compact sedans and Isuzu commercial vehicles, possibly followed by Chevrolet Spark, Lacetti, Captiva and other models. Plans call for the eventual production of 19 models including sedans, pickups and mini-buses.

Co-developer Uzavtosanoat has been producing Chevrolet-branded vehicles in Uzbekistan since 2007 under an agreement with GM. Its factories, located in the cities of Asaka and Pitnak, had combined capacity of 340,000 units in 2022. The plants’ 11,000 workers are paid an average $100 per week.

At full capacity the Uzbek-Kyrgyz JV expects to sell no more than 7,000 vehicles yearly in Kyrgyzstan, which has a population of 6.6 million and per-capita GDP in 2021 was less than $1,300, per the World Bank. The remaining output is expected to be supplied to other former Soviet republics, primarily those in Central Asia.

There is speculation within the Russian auto industry that part of the new plant’s output will be directed toward Russia, where sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine have led to an acute shortage of new Western-designed cars – and probably would preclude exports of Kyrgyz-built Chevrolets.

But Lauren Indiveri-Clarke, a GM spokeswoman who represents the automaker in Uzbekistan, Russia and other former Soviet states, tells Wards, “Such an option is not possible.” She does say the automaker continuously explores opportunities in new markets including Central Asia.

That leaves Russia with the option of obtaining Kyrgyz-built, sanctioned Chevrolets through semi-legal and illegal schemes via various intermediaries.

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