Way back in April, 2022, I sat down with Ural CEO Ilya Khait to talk about the company's struggles with current events and its seemingly shaky future. In amongst discussions of sanctions and shipping woes, Khait talked about plans to open a new production facility outside of Russia. It turns out that plans for that move were already in motion, and in late July, the company announced the opening of a shiny new production facility in Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan. Since I'm the Senior Ural Correspondent around these parts, I contacted Ural to ask about the new facility.
So, why Petropavlovsk? Located near the border with Russia, the city's population is over half ethnic Russians, and Russian is spoken as a first language by most citizens. It has a strong industrial base with established infrastructure and direct access to a major rail line. Local industrial laborers are experienced and competent—although not with motorcycles, the city's factories currently churn out agricultural equipment and industrial machinery. All these benefits made Petropavlovsk ideal.
The most important thing about the new location, however—and why it was ultimately chosen—is that it was available on short notice.
It has its downsides, though. According to Khait, the city (and Kazakhstan on the whole) is a little behind the times when it comes to modern business amenities. The internet in Kazakhstan is slower than in Russia, apparently, and international corporate databases aren't as robust.
"They didn't have the city of Redmond (Redmond, WA, is where Ural's HQ is located) in the national database," said Khait. "When we tried to register the corporation in Kazakhstan, it took several days because there was no city of Redmond in the database. Other cities in Washington State were in the database, some smaller than Redmond, but not Redmond itself."
In addition, while the transit infrastructure is better than it is in Irbit, Petropavlovsk is still relatively out of the way. While it has a decent road and rail network, the city doesn't have an international airport—the closest is almost 900 miles away in Almaty—so instantly shipping things to or from the new factory ain't happening.
Despite these slight difficulties, it seems that all the work that went into fitting out and opening the new facility was worth it. After months of stalled production, then weeks of frantic moving, the first new Ural—a 2022 GearUp in garnet red, my favorite color—rolled off the Petropavlovsk assembly line on July 23. Khait stated that the new bikes will ship soon after, meaning new Urals will finally be available going into the last half of the year.
2022 has been rough for Ural, but things seem to be looking up. Personally, I'm excited about the Kazakh bikes and this new chapter in the company's long history. I'm also excited to see what the future holds and whether we could see Ural production facilities in other countries throughout Central Asia, Eastern Europe, or Central Europe.