Kazakhstan has long sought to diversify its economy to make it less dependent on energy exports, a mission that has taken on increasing importance in this age of low oil prices. A state-of-the-art automobile production line situated on the steppes of northern Kazakhstan represents a potentially important step in this direction.
On the factory floor, sparks fly as workers weld doors to the chassis of an off-roader. “What we are building here is the SsangYong Nomad,” says Igor Zhuzha, head of the welding workshop at the AgromashHolding factory outside the city of Kostanay, a center of Kazakhstan’s fledgling automobile manufacturing industry.
This vehicle is aptly named for a country of former nomads where the jeep has replaced the horse as a favored mode of transport. Autos in general are “like a drug,” joked Andrey Lavrentyev, president of automobile dealer and manufacturer AllurAuto, whose cars are produced at this plant. “You get into it [a car] once, then you do not want to get out of the car again.”
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.