Iran's flagship automobile company, Iran Khodro, has unveiled the Islamic republic's long-awaited national car at this week's Tehran auto fair.
Six models of the car, whose working name is the "X-7" and whose emblem is a horse, were on display at the exhibition in which 26 foreign companies and 20 Iranian firms are participating.
"The X-7 is a car with a new design, based on European norms in matters of safety and environment," explained Behruz Javadi, research and development chief at Iran Khodro, which has 64 percent of the Iranian automobile market.
Javadi stressed the importance of Iran developing its own national car for the lucrative domestic market in which 300,000 cars are sold yearly.
While Iran already boasts its beloved Paykan, first produced in the 1960s, the venerable car is a spinoff of the 1960s British Hillman Hunter.
"Of course, for the X-7, we have consulted others, as is done with all manufacturers, and have been helped in procuring different parts, but it is totally Iranian," he said.
The car's motor has been designed in collaboration with France's Peugeot. The vehicle, which will be given a new name when it hits the showrooms, is expected to go on sale in September, at a price of around $9,000.
Forty thousand cars will be produced through March 2002, another 70,000 will between March 2002 and March 2003 and a further 100,000 by March 2005.
Javadi described the cooperation with Peugeot as natural, since Iran Khodro is the French automobile company's strategic partner in Iran.
Together they produce Iran's version of a luxury car, the Peugeot 405, known as the "Pars," as well as Peugeot limousines among the many models for sale by Iran Khodro.
Of course, Iran's old favorite, the Paykan, still sells 140,000 units per year. The other major Iranian automobile firm, Saipa, was founded in 1967 in order to build French Citroens. It distributes the French Renault and South Korea's Kia, as well as Japan's Nissan.
Saipa, which claims 30 percent of the car market, is to unveil this year the Iranian version of Citroen's Xantia, with production slated for 6,000.
The country's third car company is Vanet, which has production deals with Japan's Mazda and Korea's Daewoo.
The Iranian automobile industry debuted in the 1960s with models from Britain's Rover, American Motors, Citroen and Japan's Mitsubishi among others. The market has grown 27 percent in the past five years, represents 2.5 percent of Iran's gross domestic product and generates 400,000 jobs.
There are 3.7 million vehicles on the Islamic republic's roads, 70 percent of them Paykan, of which more than half are 20 years old. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)