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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Why Russian weapons maker Kalashnikov is gunning for the UAE motoring market

The company famous for the AK-47 assault rifle says it has signed a deal to bring its new electric car to the Emirates

The CV-1 electric car manufactured by Concern Kalashnikov has a driving range of 350 km between recharges and features retro looks. EPA
The CV-1 electric car manufactured by Concern Kalashnikov has a driving range of 350 km between recharges and features retro looks. EPA

The streets of the UAE could soon be overrun with Kalashnikovs - as the Russian company famous for the ubiquitous assault rifle diversifies into electric vehicles.

According to Sputnik, the Russian news service, Kalashnikov has struck a deal to make the UAE one of the first customers for its new range of electric cars and motorcycles.

The agency names Marawid Holdings, an Abu Dhabi investment company with extensive interests in the UAE, as the client, saying it and Kalashnikov “signed a memorandum of cooperation in the area of products for civilian use.”

These were “exports of electric transport,” the statement added.

Best known for the AK-47, a assault rifle developed in the late 1940s under the old Soviet Union, Kalashnikov revealed last week that it was developing an electric car, with the ambitious target of rivalling Elon Musk’s Tesla, which has a large showroom in Dubai, in the field.

The retro design is based on the Soviet Ihz 2125 or 'Kombi' which was produced from 1973 to 1997.

A small family hatchback, the Ihk Kombi sold well inside the Soviet Union and its satellite states despite a boxy design that remained almost unchanged through its production life.

By contrast, the CV-1, a baby blue concept vehicle unveiled at a defence expo in Moscow, is an “electric super car” according to Kalashnikov.

The car’s “revolutionary” technology "will let us stand in the ranks of global electric car producers such as Tesla and be their competitor".

The car will have a range of 350 kilometres and is claimed to reach 100 kph in six seconds, a significant improvement on the Soviet petrol version which took 18 seconds to emulate the feat.

If put into full production, it would compete with Tesla’s Model 3, which has a similar range and sells from Dh130,000.

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Kalishnikov also unveiled the 'UM-1' electric bike, a civilian version of a model originally developed for Russian special forces.

The UM-1, and a variant of the electric car currently called the UM-4, are both being targeted at the UAE market, according to TASS, another Russian news agency.

It says that under the terms of the memorandum of understanding with Marawid Holdings, deliveries will begin in 2018-2019.

According to Marawid’s website, the company currently employs over 11,000 people in the UAE, in fields that range from health and tourism to forest management and animal feed.

Kalishnikov is best known for the AK-47, with 75 million manufactured or copied all over the world.

The gun’s reliability in even the most testing conditions, and the low cost of production meant it was at the heart of conflicts in dozens of wars and conflicts from Vietnam, to Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Latin America.

It was developed by the Russian general and engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov, who expressed regret at the huge number of deaths caused by the gun shortly before his death in 2013.

The company has always produced other military equipment but after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 was eventually taken into the private sector and renamed Kalashnikov Concern.

While the bulk of its business is still military equipment, the company has begun to diversity in recent years, including clothing, yachts, mobile phone covers and even umbrellas.