Chevrolet to Enter Via South Korea

Chevrolet to Enter  Via South Korea
Chevrolet to Enter  Via South Korea

This week has seen a barrage of news about the possibility of America's General Motors entering the Iranian automotive market in a substantive way with the recent confirmation of licenses for importing Chevrolet and Opel vehicles after a long absence, at least for the former after some 30+ years.

Back in 1972, an Iranian company, which used to assemble complete knocked-down kits of American cars, signed a deal with GM and formed General Motors Iran Ltd. The local subsidiary produced Opels under license, using the Chevrolet banner. The company also produced Buick and Cadilllac models.

In 1981, the companies parted ways after relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic deteriorated.

But, unfortunately, once people look past the hype of driving a ship-sized American sedan down a Tehran street once again like their grandfathers might be disappointed to hear what they are actually getting: A Daewoo.

Yes, the car being offered in the Iranian market under the Chevrolet brand is none other than a South Korea-made Chevrolet which was, until 2011, called GM Daewoo.

The cars available in that market are not the same as those offered in the United States. In fact, many of the vehicles on offer in South Korea are more in line with the European vehicle offerings in terms of size and fuel consumption.

Iran is not unfamiliar with Daewoo-branded vehicles, as the company had a presence during the late 1990s and early 2000s in Iran with the ubiquitous Daewoo Matiz, many of which are still trade in the secondhand car market.

Matiz has survived the knocks and scrapes of inner-city driving in Iranian cities. For instance, a 2002 Matiz, with over 185,000 km on the clock, still averages 100 million rials ($3,000 at market exchange rate).

The car's spirit also imbibes the MVM 110, which has unabashedly copied Matiz. A one-year-old model can be picked up for 185 million ($5,500).

Buyers need to be aware that they are not buying American when these Chevrolets arrive, much like the Opels that arrived intermittently in recent months and have had their average price marked up by over 100%. These Chevrolets only share component parts with their American cousins.

Some two decades ago, a significant number of Opel Astra and Corsa sedans entered the country. These became popular with the middle class buyers yearning for a foreign brand, as they withstood the ingenuity of a plethora of mechanics struggling to keep the cars rolling in Iranian streets.

The company credited with getting the official license for bringing in the South Korea-made Chevrolet is Tehran-based Saham Pajoohan Mehr, according to the official list of national car licensees earlier reported by Financial Tribune.

When SPM was contacted for a confirmation of the landmark deal, a company representative, who did not give her name, said on the phone, "Yes, the deal is real. We have been given the license for the Chevrolet brand in mainland Iran."

The representative added that the company has not yet begun importing the cars.

Chevrolet's Trax has been reportedly lined up for the Iran entry.

How Good Are These Chevys?

Well, Top Gear was not too enthused about Aveo in their review of the car. However, the latest model did get more positive responses by the UK-based magazine.

The article said, "Good job first impressions are positive then, with far more meaty styling than the old one that helps it stand out in the small car market. Special praise from Euro NCAP in awarding a five-star rating proves there’s substance beneath, too".

And the Trax did not receive too much support for its weight to power ratio either. In AutoCar, the magazine most car enthusiasts read in the United Kingdom, said, "Here's an entry level 1.6-liter petrol with a miserly 113 bhp, a more potent 138 bhp 1.4-liter turbocharged petrol and a 128 bhp 1.7-liter turbodiesel. There are just two trim levels, LS and LT, but Chevrolet reckons that virtually everyone will opt for LT trim. There's only one engine on offer in LS trim, and that's the weedy 1.6 petrol, so we'd have to agree with their assertion."

Either way, even if the cars are just jumped up Daewoos with the American badge, they are still better than half the vehicles on the road. But because they are entirely imported, these will be out of the price range of a large segment of potential car buyers.