Meet Vladimir Putin, Russia's Premier Car Tester & Promoter

Would you drive a canary-yellow Lada Kalina Sport sedan hundreds of miles across some of the most desolate stretches of Siberia? No, you wouldn't... but you're not Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin, you see, has long been one of the Russian auto industry's biggest boosters – not an easy task considering the state of the Russian auto industry. Our man Vlad has never been one to shrink from a challenge, however, and in August of 2010 one arose that could not be ignored.

Automaker AvtoVAZ, manufacturer of the Lada brand, was searching for a novel way to advertise their newest automotive offering: the Kalina supermini five-door hatchback. Coincidentally, a 2,000 kilometer (1,243 mile) stretch of highway between Khabarovsk and Chita was mere weeks away from opening to traffic.

Wouldn't it be great, somebody wondered, if (then) Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin could promote both the car and the highway? That certain somebody just might have been Putin himself because lo and behold, on August 27th Mad Vlad slipped on a short-sleeved shirt and cool pair of shades, adroitly slipped behind the wheel of a brand, spanking new Lada Kalina Sport, and headed down the road to face the worst Siberia could throw his way. 

A group of tourists happened to come across Putin after about 400 km (almost 250 miles) when he stopped to fill the Kalina's tank with fresh Russian gasoline. Reportedly the pres, er, PM was charming, affable, and full of praise for his chosen vehicle.

Among other things, he stated that driving the Lada Kalina Sport “created a comfortable and reliable feeling”. He also recommended buying a Lada Kalina Sport and assured potential customers they would not regret it. Hmm, just who was this “reporter”, some flack from PRAVDA?

Oh, and before you get the idea that Vladimir Putin single-handedly made Siberia his biatch, be advised he had a little help from his friends. It seems there were up the three canary-yellow Lada Kalina sedans in the commie-convoy, a tactic possibly used to throw off any assassins waiting on any Siberian grassy knolls along the route.

The fleet also included up to six bodyguard vehicles plus an RV stuffed with spare parts, food & drink, and a portable shower so Vlad could freshen up from time to time. Check out this amateur and undoubtedly unauthorized video showing the AvtoVAZ armada pounding along the highway. (via, The St. Petersburg Times, and Post-Soviet Space Blog)