MOSCOW – An interesting mix of global brands, including Russian and Chinese, draw attention at this year’s Moscow auto show, widely believed to be the best ever held in this capital city.

Russian car buyers already have a wider selection of brands to choose from than consumers in other parts of Europe.

Almost all brands available in Western Europe are offered here. Additionally, a growing number of Chinese cars, as well as those from India, Iran and Uzbekistan are available in Russia.

At the show, OAO AvtoVAZ, Russia’s largest auto maker, introduces the Lada Project C prototype as its main attraction. The sedan, codename VAZ 2116, suggests Lada’s new design direction by the end of the decade.

“We are targeting the year 2009,” says AvtoVAZ Managing Director Maxim Nagaytsev regarding a production version of the Project C.

One model closer to launch is the Lada Priora. The prototype, unveiled as the Lada 2170 at the 2004 show, is expected to go into production late this year or early 2007.

The Priora is based on the current Lada 2110 range. Adding to sedan and hatchback versions unveiled at previous shows, the Lada Priora Coupe prototype is introduced here for the first time.

The Lada Kalina range also is important to AvtoVAZ’s future. In addition to sedan and hatchback versions already in production, a station wagon variant soon will be added to the line up. Meanwhile, a sporty Kalina GTI prototype grabs the attention of show goers.

Addressing reported negotiations with other auto makers, AvtoVAZ Chairman Vladimir Artyakov tells reporters the company does not intend to sell a stake to a foreign manufacturer.

However, “we are interested in a technology alliance," he says, confirming AvtoVAZ is in negotiations with Renault SA of France.

Also at this year’s show, OAO UAZ, owned by OAO Severstal-Avto, unveils updated versions of its UAZ Patriot SUV. Two pickup-truck prototypes based on the Patriot, a single and double cab, bow as well.

The GAZ Group shows its light-commercial vehicles, including the large GAZ 3121 Tigr 2 SUV, an improved version of the Tigr that also is known as Russia’s “Anti Hummer.”

Additionally, GAZ exhibits the British-made LDV Maxus. GAZ Group acquired the light-vehicle maker in July and plans to launch Russian production of the Maxus within the next two years.

Meanwhile, Chinese vehicles are ubiquitous among exhibitors at this year’s show. Russia’s small SUV maker OOO Avtomobilnaya Kompaniya Derways shows three different Chinese-made SUVs assembled in Russia and badged as Derways.

Irito, Russia’s largest importer of Chinese vehicles, is exhibiting Great Wall Automobile Holding Co. SUVs and pickup trucks, as well as BYD Auto Co. Ltd. and Hafei Motor Co. Ltd. small cars.

The Hafei Saibao sedan will be dubbed the Hafei Princip in Russia, Irito says. The Hafei Saima minivan, based on the Mitsubishi Mirage Dingo, is renamed the Hafei Simbo. The distributor decided to select model names more convenient for the Russian public, an Irito spokesman says.

Great Wall’s Hover SUV is shown with a new 2.8L Intec turbodiesel engine. Through August, Irito reports sales of 3,281 Great Wall vehicles, including 651 SUVs and 2,630 pickup trucks.

Pang Jinzhu, Great Wall’s Russian sales manager, expects total sales of 6,000 vehicles this year and 10,000 in 2007. He says the auto maker still plans to build a plant in Russia, noting no final decision has been made on its location.

First Auto Works Group (FAW), China’s largest vehicle maker, makes an appearance here for the first time at a major auto show, exhibiting its FAW C1, a small hatchback that started domestic production in late August.

Also on FAW’s stand is the Jinn small car, which is distributed in Russia by FAW’s importer Vostochno-Evropeysky Torgovy Alyans.

Other Chinese auto makers including Chery Automobile Co. Ltd., Dadi Auto Industry Co. Ltd., Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and Jinagling Holding Co. Ltd. also are represented at the show.

Among other foreign brands, India’s Tata Motors Ltd. shows a wide range of cars and commercial vehicles at the show.

ZAO Rolf Holding, Russia’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp. importer, unveils the U.S.-built Mitsubishi Galant, to be offered in Russia. Some 300-plus changes have been made to adapt the Galant for the Russian market, the importer says. The least-expensive model, powered by a 2.4L, will sell here for $29,900.

Automobiles Peugeot displays the new Peugeot 206 sedan introduced as a prototype at last year’s Frankfurt auto show. Peugeot’s Iranian partner Iran Khodro Co. launched the production model this spring.

Export shipments will begin soon. In addition to Russia, Peugeot will sell the Iranian-built sedan in Turkey, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

One of the attractions of this year’s Moscow show is the European premiere of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Infiniti luxury brand. Russia is the brand’s first European market.

The initial line-up, which goes on sale here this fall, includes the FX cross/utility vehicle and the M sedan. Both will be offered in 3.5L V-6 and 4.5L V-8 versions and available at dealerships in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

"Today, we celebrate Infiniti's expanding presence as a globally recognized luxury brand," Carlos Tavares, Nissan executive vice president-product planning and corporate strategy, says at a media presentation.

Following Russia, Infiniti will be introduced in Ukraine in 2007 and in the rest of Europe in 2008.