The History of Cummins and the Russian Army

Cummins engines power many of the Russian trucks currently invading Ukraine. Though this fact is an unfortunate bit of press for the company, it reflects Cummins’ status as a truly global engine supplier. Here’s the history of Cummins in Russian military vehicles.

Is Cummins Russian?

Cummins is a U.S. company, founded and headquartered in Columbus, Indiana. It exports engines worldwide. “CMI” is a publically traded company with investors worldwide, but rumors of foreign control are just that–rumors.

Russian troop carriers powered by Cummins engines parading through Crimea.
GAZ 2975 Tigr | Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images

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The Cummins company’s sales to the Russian military were heavily scrutinized during the latest election. This is because former Vice President Mike Pence’s brother was a Cummins executive. Under his leadership, the diesel engine manufacturer embarked on a joint venture with Russian Government-controlled KAMAZ to build military trucks.

The fact-checkers at Snopes called bull on the unsavory rumors. Sure, Ed Pence was a Cummins executive for 36 years, retiring in 2017. And yes, the company has been operating the Cummins-Kama joint venture since 2006.

But Cummins also has joint-ventures in India, China, Japan, South Korea, Ireland, Italy, and Kenya. It operates in 90 countries worldwide with no form of “special” ties to Russia.

The history of Cummins in Russia

The first Russian vehicles with Cummins engines were mining trucks back in the 1970s. Today, Cummins claims it serves more than 30 OEMs in Russia from its Moscow office.

Syrian woman uses her body to block a Cummins-powered Russian military vehicle driving through the desert.
Gaz Tigr | Delil SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images

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Cummins has slowly been growing its global brand. It earned a reputation for durable truck engines after Dodge’s Ram trucks engineered a full-size diesel pickup around the industrial-oriented Cummins 6BT.

The 6BT, a 5.9-liter inline six-cylinder proved a perfect engine for more than pickup trucks. When Russian-based Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (GAZ) began engineering a Humvee equivalent, it built its armored troop transport around the Cummins 6BT.

GAZ began building the 4×4 Tigr in 2004. The Russian Army pressed the capable vehicle into service in 2006. GAZ continued putting a Cummins 6BT in every Tigr until 2016. At that time, GAZ redesigned its Tigr and opted for a local Russian engine.

In 2006, Cummins also launched its Cummins-Kama joint venture. This agreement allowed KAMAZ to build B-series engines in Russia. KAMAZ assembled both the 4.5-liter and 6.7-liter engines. The 6.7 was the next generation 6BT and its Russian variant can make up to 300 horsepower.

Will Cummins honor the U.S. sanctions on Russia?

Cummins has an office in Moscow and over 30 local clients, including military suppliers. The company admits Biden’s sanctions may impact its bottom line.

A convoy of Russian trucks carrying missiles approach the border of Crimea and Russia, trees and a house in the background.
KAMAZ trucks used as missile launch platforms | Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images

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Cummins warned shareholders it expects “some impact” on its Russian business because of the political situation created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One level of sanctions might include Cummins ceasing all sales of its U.S.-built engines to any Russian OEMs. A more aggressive approach might be ordering KAMAZ to cease production of Cummins engines abroad.

Many of the Cummins 6BT engines powering Tigr troop transports are paired to a Chrysler Corporation-built automatic transmission. Stellantis, owner of the Chrysler Corporation, is taking a stand during the invasion of Ukraine. Stellantis donated 1 million Euros in aid to Ukrainian refugees and civilians. Perhaps we’ll see a similar gesture from Cummins.

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