Tehran, Iran, February 28
By Mehdi Sepahvand - Trend:
Around 15:00 on February 28, Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh inaugurated the country's auto industry exhibition in Tehran.
The ceremony was initially set for 11:00, but dragged to 15:00 one hour by one hour, giving a go to a showoff of one of the country's biggest non-indigenous industries.
But the tardiness does not stop there, rather the whole industry seems not intent to make a move even with economic sanctions lifted.
Now, the talk is only about importing parts from other countries and assembling them inside the country for the local market. It seems there is no show of any move to genuinely make the industry indigenous.
"Car making per say is not the case here. What is being promoted is an industry that only assembles parts together," Shahrokh, a car connoisseur told Trend on the sidelines of the exhibition.
Car makers were among the quickest Iranian companies to seize the moment to sign deals with foreigners after Iran was freed from economic sanctions on January 16.
Ebrahim Doostzadeh, engineering CEO at Samfar Co. said that Iran's car industry, like other industries, is threatened by China, which offers low-price products thanks mostly to its low labor wages.
Giant car-making Iran-Khodro accompanied President Hassan Rouhani to France in his first post-sanctions European tour to sign a big deal with Peugeot and tighten its grip on the Iranian market with prospects of importing three versions of Peugeot in one year.
What was interesting was that none of the officials of companies affiliated to Iran-Khodro were willing to talk to the press "because they had been told not to give interviews." They all were lodged in one hall of the fairground and talked of a unified management network.
The fairground is full of vehicles that are put together in the country's vast assemblage industry, yet it is officially called a show of national abilities.
Nader Farrokh, board member of Azin Khodro Co., whose company imports parts including from Renault, said his company is seeking to import more parts if the domestic assemblage factories so demand.
Iranians used to look with sighs at how quality cars their kinds from neighbor countries used to ride even before sanctions crippled the industry. Now, they can expect more modern cars, but not a modern national car production industry.
Mehdi Sepahvand is Trend Agency's Tehran-based reporter. Follow him on Twitter @mehdisepahvand