Cheap and green are not words I'd normally associate with Russian billionaires. But among the new faces at Frankfurt 2011 is the appealingly named Yo-Auto -- a venture that teams the Russian truck maker Yarovit with Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim investment group.

Wealthy Russians put football teams and fast cars high on their list of "Must Haves" and Prokhorov already owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team. He's ranked only the world's 59th richest man, according to Forbes, which must give him the oligarch's equivalent of an inferiority complex.

Still, Prokhorov's fortune is estimated $13.4 billion -- a sum that would purchase quite a few Yo-Auto cars. That's because the new company isn't about high-end motors. The aim is to produce eco-friendly hybrids that will cost less than $10,000 (around £6,200).

In December 2010 Prokhorov unveiled models ranging between $12,000-15,000 and covering the hatchback, van and crossover markets. This week Frankfurt got a look at the Yo Concept, which uses a range extender petrol engine. But Yo-Auto says that the first little Yos to roll off the production line will include conventional petrol engines.

Yo-Auto CEO Andrei Biryukov says they'll have to buy car parts that are not manufactured in Russia. This would include electronics and some parts of the suspension system.

In August work began on constructing a new plant near St Petersburg to manufacture these budget-price vehicles. Yo-Auto envisages an initial capacity of 45,000 cars per annum, which would double during the second phase. The plant is due to come on stream in the second half of 2012.

The pictures of the Yo-Concept reveal a stylish design with capacious doors that offer easy access for partying oligarchs.

But you have to wonder how the Yo-mobile itself will fare when it eventually hits the roads. Though it promises to do an eco-friendly 67mpg, will a top speed of 75mph and a cruising range of 249 miles really cut it in the millionaire playgrounds of Europe?

Share this post