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Kalashnikov Unveils a Car of the Future. Russians See a 1970s Relic.
MOSCOW — What do you get when a staid Russian weapons manufacturer designs a “concept” electric car and a futuristic robot? Apparently, you get a car based on a Soviet-era design and an ungainly monster more than 13 feet tall that many people doubt is capable of moving.
The Kalashnikov Concern of rifle fame introduced the two potential products to a round of laughs and jeers in Moscow this week, touting them as proof that Russia is capable of producing innovative goods for the global economy.
The electric car will compete with the market leader, Tesla, boasted a company spokeswoman, while the robot prototype was supposedly designed to undertake both combat and engineering tasks.
According to a spokesperson for the company, which was privatized last year, the car can accelerate from zero to more than 60 miles per hour in six seconds, and its battery gives it a range of more than 200 miles, said a spokesperson for the company.
“We are talking about competing with Tesla precisely because it’s currently a successful vehicle project,” the spokesperson told the RBC news website. “We expect to at least keep up with it.”
The Russian internet was having none of it. Memes mocking the concept car and questions about whether the robot was actually mobile proliferated across social media.
To test a rocket last February, the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, famously launched his roadster into space. So observers began creating pictures of the clunky concept car showing it, too, in orbit.
Of course, Tesla has problems of its own that make the idea of a competitor, even a Russian competitor, seem less far-fetched than it once might have. But it did not help matters that ordinary Soviet-era cars do not fit anybody’s concept of sleek or sexy. And Kalashnikov’s CV-1 electric vehicle is based on a boxy Soviet hatchback, the Izh, that was introduced in 1973.
If anything it came across more like a Los Angeles lowrider than the wave of the future. One creative observer imagined how the interior of a futuristic car might be decorated with Russian Orthodox icons, a favorite of many local drivers.
Both the car and the robot were unveiled at a military trade show outside Moscow called ARMY-2018. The robot resembled a giant mechanical chicken, albeit one with a giant head and weighing more than 4.5 metric tons. Various tech writers compared it to armed robots from the “Robocop” movies or the “Metal Gear” video games.
Few answers were forthcoming in response to questions about what it could do, and observers soon concluded that it could do nothing at all. The robot was more statue than weapon, as one overseas writer put it derisively.
There did seem to be at least one innovation, at least when it came to Kalashnikov’s concept car. Side view mirrors are something of a vehicular vestigial organ here: Russian drivers often change lanes or otherwise plow forward without bothering to check what is coming up behind them.
The concept car had no side mirrors.
Follow Neil MacFarquhar on Twitter: @NeilMacFarquhar.
Lincoln Pigman contributed reporting.