By on April 10, 2011

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.

Now if Iran car sales are not your cup of Chai, despair not: there are 153 more countries covered in my blog. Check it out, you’ll love it, yes you will!

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:

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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32 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Iran Parties Like It’s ‘84...”

  • avatar

    Great post as always Matt! Entertaining and full of info.

    Now I know I have one thing in common with Iranians, a Renault/Dacia/Iran Khondro Tondar90/Logan.

    Fascinating. Much like Argentina it seems Iran loves their small sedans!

    A comparo between Paykan and Hindustan Ambassador would be much appreciated.

    Btw, does Iran Khondro or Saipa mean anything?

  • avatar

    I never considered 1986 to be a watershed year for Peugeots, but apparently so.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Too bad Iran didn’t focus on Exner era fins-57-58 upscale Desotos are blue chip investments right now.

  • avatar

    Nice post, Matt. Now I know which country to go to if I ever need Hillman Hunter or Ford Festiva parts!

  • avatar

    I didn’t know Kia made the Ford Festiva/Pride in four-door form. Never see them around here.

  • avatar

    It looks like there is a Mercedes W123 in the background of the first picture.  That could also be from 1984.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a vague resemblance, but the grill is completely wrong.
      So I’m calling it a no, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran had its share of 114/5s and 123s running around…

    • 0 avatar

      Hey! That’s also a Paykan! :D :D :D
      I’m from Iran, I can understand how confused you can be right now, but that’s also a Paykan!

  • avatar

    Well with hindsight history tells us the Rootes group may have done better selling Hillman directly to Iran instead of Chrysler Europe – see it wasn’t just Peugeot PSA in that game.

    Too young in the early 70’s to drive a Hunter but frequently rode in one. The Hunter was a bland, featureless car with a cheap plastic interior and jostled ride. Everything broke on the Hunter from the dome light to the door handles. Good move Paykan, replacing the 1725 with a 504.

    What surprises me now is how the equally bland, featureless Chrysler Europe 180/2 Litre flagship never made it into Tehran for government service (think Brit Rover P5).

    • 0 avatar

      The 180/2 ltre made it to Australia and had 215,245,265 Hemi 6s inserted very very fast but tin can body work and it wasnt a big car. Hunters were very tough cars the London -Sydney marathon was won by a Hunter yeah they had a shit plastic interior but so did everything else. Hunters out here coped with gravel roads and hard use ok and of the pommie cars of the late 60s were some of the better ones.

      • 0 avatar

        London-Sydney I had the Corgi with goldjacks and plastic roo.

        The Hunter was a pom turd mate. Maybe it was built local and beefed up for oz roads. Hunter was a fleet car and it was cheap & nasty. It was the end of an era for Hillman quality.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Matt, Pride went through a heavy facelifting and reinforcing over there. It’s now called Saipa 132 (sedan) and 111 (hatchback). It features also power steering.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Athos, thanks for this! I heard that even the 132 and 111 production stopped to give way to the Tiba? Is that incorrect?

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, Pride has just been RENAMED to SAIPA 132, 131 & 111. I’m from Iran, I own a 111 right now!
        Boy you just have to know the price… When I bought 111 last year, it was priced about 10000$ ! Do you believe it?!!

        Those 405s are now tagged 9000$ !!!! IN 2012! I mean in the 21st century! :D :D :D :O :O :O

        • 0 avatar

          Hello I’m from Australia. The saipa 111-132-131 are all known as a ford festiva and Mazda 121. I love them are no longer produced over here but I wish saipa would bring them over. But the problem is they are so unsafe. No ESP optional abs and non existent airbags. I have to worry about the regulations over in your country it seems like they have no care for the safety of the public on the roads. Over here in aus you cannot sell a brand new car without dr&pas airbags ESP and abs unless its design has not been changed since 1998.

  • avatar

    That grey Samand 4-dr looks like some kind of warmed-over Seat design to me…

  • avatar

    For those who haven’t made the connection, PSA’s relationship with IKCO was inherited when PSA bought the Rootes Group/Hillman from Chrysler. So it dates back to the 1960s when the Hillman Hunter deal was first made.

  • avatar

    That Hillman Hunter brings back memories. I lived a few blocks from a Roots Group assembly plant in Ireland where they churned out those Hunters. My Dad had one for a short time when he took a break from buying Ford Cortina’s. Very unreliable car but I have good memories driving around West Cork (beautiful countryside) with all 8 of us in it!! Dad replaced it with an equally unreliable VW Variant (not sure what they were called on this side of pond) then back to Fords.

  • avatar

    “under the current economical embargo on Iran”

    Which are precisely? Whilst US sanctions may prohibit US firms doing business with Iran, EU companies do not have as harsh restrictions preventing them.

    Last time I checked PSA was a French company not an Amercian one!

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Nicodemus,

      I originally thought the same but since last year, EU nations have restrictions on trade with Iran that are as strict if not stricter than the US ones:

      • 0 avatar

        They’re nowhere near as strict as the US sanctions which basically say ‘thou must not trade with Iran’ (tell that to Ollie North!)

        The EU has a lot of financial and of course military restrictions however none of these actually prohibit trade. The nearest they come is one that makes it obligitory for money transfers above a certain value to be declared and approved before they can take place. Maybe the approval process is onerus maybe it isn’t but it clearly isn’t impossible.

        Whilst Peugeot may not publicise the fact they do a trade with Iran, I think to suggest that they are involved in some kind of subterfuge is a bit of a long bow to draw. What they are doing is clearly legal and in any case is hardly secret – so it is highly likely it has been well investigated.

      • 0 avatar

        Nobody suggests that anything illegal is going on. The dealings with the Iran are well known … although some companies would like it better they weren’t.
        Also see here. And here.

    • 0 avatar

      US imposed sanctions, and push hard other states to enforce them, even the Toyota ceased the business with Iran. That makes me think the PSA earns huge sums to resist the pressure.

  • avatar

    Updated production figures in Iran are now available and show that the facelifted Kia Pride (Saipa 111 and 132) is way ahead with over 600,000 units produced in 2010!

    All the figures here:


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