GM, which is the No. 1 automaker in China, may get to Gaz first. It's currently exploring a deal to partner with the company, having recently lost out on a bid for a stake in Russia's No. 1 automaker, AvtoVaz, to Renault-Nissan -- the company that was in talks for a global alliance with GM last year. Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian liquidated his stake in GM after it declined to follow his advice and do a deal with Renault-Nissan.
GM is already the No. 1 non-Russian auto seller in the country, with its Chevrolet and Opel brands growing in popularity. It has a plant in St. Petersburg that will begin production next year, and it has a number of joint ventures and third-party manufacturing deals there, including a partnership with AvtoVaz, to build a small SUV called the Chevy Niva -- the top seller in its category.
GM said its sales in Russia soared by 75% in the third quarter compared to last year to 65,700 vehicles, and a spokesman confirmed that its operations in that country are profitable. Still, while its sales in Europe, which includes Russia, were up 10% to $26.8 billion in the first nine months of the year, its profits in the region on an adjusted basis declined by 27%.