Recounting which cars are the best sellers in some parts of the world can be a trip down memory lane. Like last weekend when we visited Russia, a country dominated by a 30 year old Lada model.
Get ready for some really fond déjà vu. This week, we are going to ‘economically isolated’ Iran, where the best selling cars are surprisingly familiar.
Unbeknownst to many, Iran is the biggest car market in the Middle-East with over 1 million cars made and sold each year. I could not access any official car sales figures, there is only patchy production data which we will use to establish the best-selling cars in the country.
Cars produced and sold in Iran are a mix of local Iranian cars, most of which seldom leave the country, and very familiar European cars that you probably didn’t associate with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s country… because the manufacturers involved keep it pretty discreet…
There are two main manufacturers in Iran: Iran Khodro (IKCO) and Saipa.
In 2000, Iran Khodro launched the first Iranian-designed car: the Samand. If you are a true car nerd you should know of the Samand. If you don’t, please visit Athos Nobile’s world-exclusive review of the car. The Samand was hailed as Iran’s new ‘national car’ in replacement of the legendary Paykan. More on the Paykan soon.
The Samand was an immediate hit in its native country, and enjoyed relative success in export markets, notably in Russia and Venezuela. In 2007, Iran Khodro launched the Soren, a revised version of the Samand. The Soren is exported into 18 countrie,s and 77,409 units were produced in 2008. Mechanically, the Soren, as the Samand, is based on the 1987 Peugeot 405. Yes. I know. Hold (and digest) that thought for a minute, we’ll come back to it.
The latest model unveiled by Iran Khodro is the Runna, presented in April 2009. The Runna is based on the Peugeot 206 (this is getting somewhere I hear you think). Now for some mysterious reason, 18 months are needed to get the Runna production-ready, for a launch planned in September 2011. Iran Khodro aims to reach 150,000 units a year at full production. Wishful thinking? We’ll see.
Now to Peugeot.
Iran Khodro is engaged in a long-term relationship with PSA Peugeot Citroen, even though you won’t hear the latter bragging too much about it. After all, a chateau in suburb of Paris had been home for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for a year, before an Air France flight brought him back to Teheran.
IKCO has been producing the Peugeot 405 under license without interruption since its launch in 1987. If you are nostalgic of France in the late eighties, Tehran might be the right place for you! Just for a bit of perspective, in Europe, the 405 was replaced by the 406 in 1995, itself replaced by the 407 in 2004, replaced by the 508 this year… We’re talking great-grand father material here…
The Iranian Peugeot 405 has been lightly restyled throughout the years. Different versions have taken various names (405, Pars, RC and Roa). The Iranian 405 is an enormous success: a total of 258,090 units were produced in 2008 alone!
IKCO does export a few to neighboring Azerbaijan, to Iraq, and Syria. The great majority stays in Iran, which makes the Peugeot 405 the best- selling car in Iran, more than 20 years after its launch! Hands up who knew that little bit of trivia? Don’t you love those lovely Sundays where you learn the most obscure things about car sales around the world? I know, I know, me too.
As part of the same long-term (open) relationship, IKCO also produces the Peugeot 206 since 2001, and the 2008 production figure reached 78,399 units (39,480 sedans and 38,919 hatchbacks), for a possible place on the Iranian car sales podium.
No need to mention that under the current economical embargo on Iran, Peugeot keeps this long-term relationship pretty low under the RADAR, but it’s there.
Saipa, the second Iranian manufacturer, produced the Saipa Pride, a 1986 Kia Pride best seller, in the country for 2 decades. Up to 30 percent of Iran’s car park is sheer Pride. However, Pride production has ceased.
To replace the Pride, Saipa has launched the Tiba, destined to become the brand’s biggest seller: 15,000 units were built in 2009. Its objective is to reach 200,000 units per year by 2012. Cue the ‘wishful thinking’ question…
Finally, a happy joint-venture between Renault, IKCO and Saipa produces the Dacia Logan in Iran under the name Tondar 90. You are allowed to read this sentence a few more times. You’re with me? Ok I continue. This joint-venture made automotive industry headlines in March 2007 when it was announced that over 100,000 Tondar 90 orders were taken within a week of it going on sale. However official production figures reached a much more reasonable 36,756 units in 2008…
Now I won’t dare to close an article about Iranian car sales without giving you a lowdown of the Paykan (yes! another opportunity for you to show off! The picture is shown above in front of the billbopard with the bearded man). For more than three decades, Iran Khodro produced the Paykan, a car developed from the 1966 Hillman Hunter. It led sales in the country from its introduction in 1967 up until 2001! By 1972, nearly all cars in the country were Paykans and the streets are still filled with them nowadays.
That’s all for today! If you want to check out more about Iranian car sales from 1967 to 2010 simply go here: Iran Historical Data.
Production figures source: www.skyscrapercity.com
Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.