Iran Auto Sector 2016: Playing for High Stakes

Big changes occurred in 2016, but Iran’s auto market is only just warming up
Playing for High StakesPlaying for High Stakes

The past year has been transformative in the local auto industry as foreign car companies look to edge their way back into the country of 80 million people.

European car companies, mainly French, have made inroads in reentering the Islamic Republic, but are not oblivious to the fact that the Chinese are not leaving any time soon.


At the start of the year, PSA Group (Peugeot-Citroen) got the ball rolling announcing it had signed a contract with Iran Khodro to invest €400 million ($436 million at the time) in the newly proposed joint venture (later called IKAP).

Another development in January was a report of several dozen Korean-made Chevrolets sitting at Iranian ports. In late 2015, Iran's government said it had no issue with US vehicles entering the market. However, a U-turn on this decision later banned all American branded or made cars.


China's Lifan launched its 820 executive-sedan in the local market at the time for 820 million rials ($23,500) at that point. The introductory offer has since been rescinded, and the car sells for over 900 million rials.

In February, a team from Italy's FCA Group (Fiat) toured the Iran Khodro Company's plant outside Tehran. The Iranian company was pegging Fiat to be the 'fourth automaker,' however since that date no Italian model has rolled out of the factory.

Moreover, IKCO plans for regional exports got a boost with a deal with an Omani company. The plan would be to produce the Peugeot 405 and Dena for export in the Arabian Peninsula.


In early March, Iran Khodro announced it was negotiating a business agreement with Datsun, an automobile brand owned by Japan’s Nissan (no news since).

Meanwhile, China's Guangzhou Automotive Group Company announced intentions to move into the Iranian market and was looking for a local production partner (to date they have found none).

In late March, just before the holiday break, Hyundai Motor Group announced it was gearing up to export semi-knocked down products as part of a joint venture with an unnamed local partner.


In April, Chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Lord Norman Lamont said that country's carmakers are eager to start trade with Tehran. Lamont added that British automakers, such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley, are anxious to establish business ties.

Benoit Tiers, Audi Volkswagen's regional chief, also said in April Iran along with other regional countries offers great potential for sales of their brand.  The company rep also said he would start looking at Iran's market "when the time was right."

IKCO announced the future production of the DongFeng H30 Cross, meanwhile another Chinese car company BAIC, selling the Great Wall Brand said, they plan to produce 100,000 vehicles in the country.


During early summer, Japan's iconic ISUZU launched its latest pickup truck in the Iranian market costing 1.18 billion rials ($33,700.)

Production of the Chinese-derived H220 started at Iran's second-largest carmaker SAIPA Group in early May. The hatchback was priced at 380 million rials ($11,000).

China's BYD launched in the Iranian market the S6 sports utility vehicle with an initial price of 920 million rials ($26,000).


Iran Khodro CEO Hashem Yekezare  announced plans to team up with Japanese automaker Suzuki and produce the Swift, Celerio and Ciaz and Baleno (by January the company has made no more announcements.)

The designated chief of the new Peugeot Iran Khodro joint venture died of a heart attack on June 26, delaying plans for the company's launch.

Meanwhile, MVM unveiled the Chery Arrizo 5 in Kerman. The sedan was to be priced at 700-750 million rials ($20,000-$21,400). Sales for the Hyundai Accent-inspired vehicle began later in July.


During the warm month of July, Skoda confirmed Iran is a market with high growth potential. The company spokesperson did not mention which models will come from any joint venture with Iranian automakers.

Iran Khodro's Yekezare said the Peugeot 2008 would enter the market in March 2017 as IKCO’s first joint production with Peugeot.

Citroen spinoff DS launched its DS6 model was launched in Tehran.  Arian Motor Taban announced in August. The price of the vehicle at the time was 2.1 billion rials ($61,000) at launch.


Scania trucks unveiled its range of vehicles for the Iranian market. Mammut Group, Scania trucks’ primary partner in Iran, unveiled the new generation of Scania trucks S730 and R500.

The government declared the continued production of old car models such as Peugeot 405 and Pride as illegal. It stipulated that as of March 2016, the production of local cars produced for over ten years and foreign cars produced for over seven years in Iran must stop.

Meanwhile, PSA Group announced it intended to bring the Citroen C4 to the local market by the new year.


September saw the release of the Renault (Dacia) Sandero Stepway, with more than 4,000 vehicles pre-sold by the company in that month, adding to the already booming sales of the regular Stepway released earlier in the summer.

Another Renault car released was the Talisman sedan. The vehicle fills the void in the market which according to the company chief, is filled only by East Asian car companies. The car was priced at 1.65 billion rials ($47,000) to 1.79 billion rials ($51,000) for the deluxe model.

Meanwhile, MVM launched its upgraded MVM X33S model in Tehran. The new X33s will cost over 750 million rials ($22,396). The company also announced it was bringing its new X22 crossover model the same month.


Spain's SEAT, a subsidiary of VW, brought the SEAT Leon to market. At the time, the 1.8-liter Leon was priced at $41,000 (1.43 billion rials at market exchange rate) and the 1.4-liter model at $35,000 (1.2 billion rials).

Meanwhile, SAIPA announced it was in the process of signing a deal with Malaysia's Proton to produce their vehicles in Iran.

Renault announced deliveries were up by 135.5% in the first nine months of 2016 thanks to the success of Logan and Sandero models.

Moreover, the French company announced the Renault Kwid for the local market, the vehicle according to Renault Pars, is expected to cost 31 million rials ($8,800 at market exchange rate).


Renault announced it was setting up a factory south of Tehran to keep costs to a minimum. An advisor to the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, Biuk Alimoradlou, said that Saveh would be an ideal location for the JV.

Meanwhile, Arian Motor Taban, the representative of DS brand in Iran, unveiled the 5LS model at its showroom in Tehran. The vehicle was priced at 1.9 billion rials ($54,000).

Pars Khodro announced it plans to bring another Chinese-derived Brilliance model. The new car is believed to be an SUV called the C3 and is the largest in the range.

Also in November, Iran's Auto Manufacturers Association announced that a total of 753,580 cars were manufactured in Iran from the beginning of the current fiscal in March to November 5.


The last month of the Gregorian calendar saw some developments which many would have missed, including the reintroduction of the ten-year-old Peugeot 207i, after several years of stalled production. A new joint venture between Iran Khodro and Peugeot-Citroen saw the model return to the IKCO assembly lines. During the previous round of the production, the car sold for 360 million rials ($9,470).

Mammut Group, famous locally for its refrigerated trucks, announced it had signed a deal with Germany's Volkswagen to produce the current VW Polo 4-door hatchback. Initially, the company plans to import the model but will begin production later in 2017.

Kerman Motor Company announced it will produce two new Hyundai models for the domestic market. Namely, the i10 and i20 hatchback models to compete with several other smaller hatchbacks entering the market.

The past year has been momentous for several reasons, not least the fact that dozens of new models entered the market. However, looking back, it can be said that Renault has stolen the lead on its competitors with its multipronged approach in the market.

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