In 1929 the construction of Moscow Automotive Plant began with initial production of 24,000 vehicles. In 1941 the plant was evacuated to Ural and the entire production converted for the manufacture of the military equipment at the dawn of World War II. After the war, the Soviet Union brought an entire Opel manufacturing line from Brandenburg in Germany. A factory called MZMA (Moskovsky Zavod Malolitrazhnykh Avtomobiley, that is, Moscow Compact Car Factory) started in 1947 to manufacture an automobile called Moskvitch 400 based on the Opel Kadett. Further models were developed by Soviet engineers. In 1969, the factory changed name to AZLK (Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola, which means Youth Communist League Car Factory).
Moskvitch cars were never meant to be a fashion statement. They were sturdy, reliable on substandard roads and were offered at an affordable price. The 1960s and early 1970s were the glory days, when the cars were exported to many countries throughout the world. Demand always exceeded production, so people had to wait a long time for a new car. Until the 1980s all Moskvitch cars were compact rear-wheel drive saloons and estates with solid rear axles suspended by leaf springs.
In 1986 AZLK unveiled its new model, Aleko-141. The only part carried over from previous models was the engine. This front-wheel drive hatchback was different from any model the factory had made before. It was larger and upmarket, made with comfort, safety and aerodynamics in mind. The body was partly borrowed from Simca 1307 / 1308 / 1309, while longitudinal engine placement and torsion-crank rear suspension was inspired by Audi 80 / 100 cars. The car was a definite improvement over the previous generation, but the fall of the centralised economy, below-par quality and inadequate management ultimately brought the factory to bankruptcy.
The factory, which had been renamed to OAO Moskvitch (Moskvitch Joint Stock Company) in the early 1990s, filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and shut down all production. The factory remains idle and abandoned, everything left as it was in 2002. Unfinished bodyshells remain on the production line in various stages of completion, and furniture, computers, office supplies, and documents remain in the plant's administration building.
Several attempts to restart production have been made over the past 3 years, but to no avail. OAO Moskvitch apparently still exists as a company "on paper", and may still be the title-holder to the plant facilities, but Moskvitch no longer operates as a going concern; the company has no income, produces no products, and has no employees.
Recently, a portion of the disused Moskvitch plant has been acquired by OAO Avtoframos, a 38%-62% joint venture between the City of Moscow and French automaker Renault SA respectively. In 2005, Avtoframos commenced assembly of Renault Logan sedans from imported complete knock-down kits (CKDs). The presence of Avtoframos means that at least part of the Moskvitch plant is active once again, but the majority of the sprawling plant remains abandoned, apparently still owned by the dormant Moskvitch company.