Iran's largest carmaker said Oct. 10 problems with quality and lack of government support were undermining its ambitious plans for a massive increase in exports over the next four years. Iran Khodro, established in 1962, is seeking to increase its exports to 250,000 cars in 2010 from 6,000 vehicles in the last Iranian calendar year of 1384 (March 2005-2006).
Alireza Mirzai, Iran Khodro's director of exports, said the company's export efforts were focused on Iran's flagship "national car" the Samand, the successor to the notorious gas-guzzling Paykan whose production has now ceased. But he outlined a litany of factors which he said showed "poor governmental support" for the company's efforts.
"The government has not been yet able to accept the concept of exports," he said. Mirzai pointed to "a lack of membership in regional or international trade pacts that would ease up customs, targeting unprofitable markets for political reasons, belated payment of exports bonuses and a complicated system of customs and loans for importers."
But he also admitted that "the most important problem is the product's quality, then it comes to punctual delivery of products according to our commitments, which is sometimes problematic."
Iran started a drive to boost its exports portfolio only two years ago with 1,100 cars exported in 2004, the same as the total amount sold over a 10-year period between 1993-2003. The figure exported in the current Iranian year has so far reached about 9,000, already well over the 6,000 sold last year.
"Our main exports began with the Peugeot 206 (produced by Iran Khodro in Iran), but due to some problems we decided not to only rely on domestically produced foreign cars and put our efforts into the national car of Samand," he said. The decision means the Samand, a virtual newcomer in the car industry, has to compete with established foreign brands like Kia, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault and Toyota which still enjoy lower prices and higher quality.
Iran Khodro's actual and potential targets vary from ex-Soviet countries to Sudan, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. But the company also wants to target countries closer to home like Iraq and Afghanistan, Mirzai said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006