A report carried in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government's official newspaper of record, says that work began on February 6 when a decree was issued. Dubbed Project Cortege, the aim of the 12.6 billion rouble ($377 million) venture is to create a platform which will underpin a limousine, SUV and people-mover primarily for state use.
Design work will be carried out by Russian car makers Sollers, GAZ, KAMAZ and ZIL, and led by Porsche Engineering. The government hopes that the high visibility and prestige of the undertaking will attract the best designers and graduates from across Russia and Belarus.
Under the project's current timeline prototypes will be ready in 2015 and testing completed by 2016. Production of the limousine will begin sometime during 2017, with the SUV and people-mover following a year behind. The government estimates that some 40,000 SUVs will be produced, although it's not entirely clear whether that's an annual or a total figure. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta only five per cent of project's total output will be used by top Russian officials.
Images issued by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (above) show design mock-ups of a limo with an exterior that's not too far removed from the current Rolls-Royce Phantom, albeit considerably longer. The interior is a plush leather and wood affair with electrically operated seats and an oversized Russian government crest on the steering wheel hub — oddly the rest of the steering wheel seems to be lifted from a fourth-generation Ford Mondeo. It's unclear, though, how close to the final design these mock-ups are.
According to Yahoo! Autos, the new locally developed limousine will replace the stretched Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans that are currently employed to ferry President Putin and his coterie around.