Ural Moves Production to Kazakhstan Amidst Turmoil at Home

Redmond, Washington-based Ural Motorcycle company has long manufactured their iconic off-road motorcycles at a plant in Irbit, Russia, staying true to the bike’s Cold War-era roots. In a 2018 interview with Yahoo! News, the company’s current CEO, Ilya Khait recounted that at it’s peak, the factory employed 10,000 people and produced nearly 130,000 motorcycles a year for a Russian populace obsessed with the two-wheeled vehicles in the years following World War II. As the Cold War ended and the Soviet system collapsed, the plant became a shadow of its former glory, producing as few as a four thousand units a year before the company endured multiple bankruptcies and nearly disappeared in the late 1990s. In 2000, Ilya and a group of fellow investors bought the company and began a gradual turnaround of the brand that has lead to a thriving business and a sizable international cult following.

With a slowing global economy and expanding international sanctions against Russia, Ural has once again fallen on hard times. In an interview posted to Ural’s YouTube channel, CEO Ilya Khait remarks that “We are in [a] multi-layer blockade right now. Essentially we can’t bring anything in and we cannot get anything out. And if we could, we would see huge import tariffs.” “We can’t even ship parts right now.” “We have to move [out of Russia] no matter what. [There is] no way around it.”

The company announced on April 18th that they would be moving the bulk of its manufacturing operations to the northern Kazakhstani city of Petropavl, roughly 600 kilometers southeast of the Irbit factory. The new location will focus on assembly of Ural’s motorcycles, and free the company from the economic and supply-chain constraints of doing business within Russia’s borders. Some work will continue at the Irbit location, with the original factory continuing to focus on frames and body components that will ultimately be shipped to Petropavl for assembly.

READ MORE: THE ULTIMATE OVERLAND MOTORCYCLE BUILD

Ural chose to relocate to Kazakhstan due to its proximity to current operations, the predominance of Russian speakers there, and ultimately as the “easiest, fastest, simplest way to get ourselves out of Russia and restart manufacturing”, according to Kait. The CEO admits that he doesn’t know whether this will just be a short term relocation or a long term home for Ural’s operations. Part shipments are expected to restart in the next few weeks with full motorcycles to follow in the coming months.

Wherever Urals end up being built, we hope to have the iconic off-road bike around for along time. Godspeed Mr. Kait.

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