Iran revs up for auto revolution

TEHRAN, Iran — The auto giant PSA Peugeot Citroen has become the first foreign company since the Jan. 16 implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to obtain a license from the Iranian government to invest in Iran Khodro Co. (IKCO), the biggest car manufacturer in the country. Jean-Christophe Quemard, PSA Peugeot Citroen’s executive vice president for Africa and the Middle East, said earlier this month that the next “big step” for the multinational automaker would be the creation of a joint venture this summer, the French business magazine Challenges reported April 6.

PSA Peugeot Citroen, a past IKCO partner, has just resumed deliveries of auto parts, after a four-year hiatus. Its abrupt 2012 pullout from the Iranian market as nuclear-related sanctions against Iran intensified upset Iranian authorities. The move greatly harmed the Iranian automotive industry. IKCO CEO Hashem Yekkeh-Zare said in an interview with the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency that to avoid similar such incidents, any foreign company interested in the Iranian market must first make an investment.

IKCO and Peugeot have apparently put aside their differences and agreed that each will hold a 50% stake in a 400 million euro ($452 million) joint venture to produce Peugeot 208, 2008 and 301 models over the next five years. Under the agreement, the Iranians will fill the CEO position in the joint company while the French side will chair the board. The Iranians have required that manufacturing technology be transferred over the course of a few years, a policy implemented by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration as a prerequisite for any industrial partnership. Iran hopes this strategy will bring an end to the economic ostracism imposed on it by the West over the past decade.

Despite Iran’s investment conditions, Peugeot officials have expressed happiness over the recent deal, with Quemard calling it a win-win contract. Their satisfaction may partly be due to a likely 15% hike in car production by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, until March 20, 2017. If forecasts hold true, Iran will produce more than 1 million vehicles by year-end, although the figure will still be far lower than the record-setting 1.6 million vehicles produced in 2011. IKCO will be responsible for about half of the output.

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