Prior to World War II, the communist Soviets had never been fond of the production of automobiles. It represented free enterprise and a bourgeois lifestyle. However, in 1929 the Soviet government singed an agreement with Ford Motors to build a factory in what is now known as Gor’kii. The Gor’kii Automotive Factory (GAZ). The GAZ would be more known for its size and ability to produce, rather than the automobiles themselves. According to Lewis Siegelbaum, author of Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile, the GAZ, as well as other automobile factories, began slowing in production of commercial automobiles due to the need for steel in the production of tanks. The production decreased from 211,000 in 1938 to 145,000 in 1940.
Following the war, Stalin approved two new models, Pobeda (Victory) and Moskvich (muscovite). Although the prices were far too high for the common worker, the small number produced allowed for there to be more demand than product. People would be put onto waiting lists for months and even years before being able to get their hands on the new automobiles.
Stalin would also have a series of highly prestigious automobiles produced from Moscow’s Stalin Factory (ZIS), including the speedy ZIS-110 and the monstrous armor-plated ZIS-115 and ZIS-110B (convertible version). However, their were only a few dozen 115’s produced and most were owned by the Kremlin. Stalin owned five of his own and alternated which one he would drive each day as a safety precaution.
The importance of Stalin allowing the increased production and sales of automobiles is how it portrays a consumer based economy and eases tensions with the wary, free-market West. The “Big Plan” identified the Soviet’s inability to deal with conflict following World War II due to the fragility of their political structure and economy. Stalin, therefor, allowed for a more democratic look to the post-WWII USSR. Whether or not the increased production and sales of cars actually eased tensions is unknown, however, it did introduce automobiles to a progressive soviet society.