There was a comic and telling moment at the launch of Russia's new upscale Aurus brand at the Moscow auto show last month. Having been introduced on stage as someone who "played a significant role" in the development of Russia's new flagship automaker, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov chided the company's CEO to push forward the development of its SUV.
"I insist the prototype of the SUV should appear at the beginning of next year. This is my instruction to you. Say yes," Manturov told Aurus CEO Gerhard Hilgert.
"That's your clear instruction? What choice do I have?" replied Hilgert, a former Daimler exec.
The exchange was a joke, but it also revealed how close the Russian state is to the development of Aurus, which aspires to rival Bentley and Rolls-Royce not just in Russia but in Europe and the rest of the world.
Aurus is 75 percent owned by NAMI, a government-sponsored research institute. (The rest is owned by local automotive conglomerate Sollers.) The aim of Aurus is to promote Russia's automotive excellence.
The big reveal of the automaker's stretched (and armored) Senat limousine came in May when President Vladimir Putin used it to travel to his inauguration.