Iran to roll out Mideast’s first electric cars
Iran is to become the first Middle Eastern country to launch electric vehicles, with Mitsubishi Motors’ plug-in hybrid Outlander SUV expected to hit Iranian roads as early as fall.
The Japanese automaker seeks to take advantage of burgeoning demand for environmentally friendly cars in the country where around 1 million cars are sold annually.
Iran Khodro is the largest car manufacturer in the Middle East, but the serious problem of air pollution in Tehran and other big cities has prompted state planners to look for green vehicles.
According to a Tuesday report on the website of the Nikkei business daily, the redesigned Outlander, which curbs use of the conventional engine in favor of the twin electric motors, will be built in Japan and shipped to Iran.
The introduction of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles known as PHEVs into the Iranian market requires a series of adjustment work, where a network of rapid-charging stations has to be built.
However, PHEVs which employ both conventional engines and electric motors can be charged at home.
Mitsubishi Motors has sold plug-in hybrids in Japan and Western Europe, with plans to broaden into the US and Eastern Europe this year, Nikkei said.
For carmakers, the lifting of sanctions has turned Iran into a new bonanza market. European manufacturers, especially France’s Peugeot and Renault, have been quick to stake out a foothold.
Among Asian companies, Chinese and Korean automakers have the upper hand through a series of assembly lines which produce completely knocked down (CKD) units.
Japan’s auto profile in Iran, however, is restricted to dealership. According to Nikkei, Mitsubishi Motors plans to increase Iran dealerships to about 50 from the current 41 this year after seeing sales volume grow 16-fold on the year to about 3,200 units in 2016.
On Monday, Renault signed Iran’s biggest-ever car deal worth 660 million euros to produce 150,000 units a year. The agreement calls for 30 percent of the cars manufactured in Iran to be exported.
Another French carmaker, PSA Group whose Peugeot and Citroen cars have an omnipresence on Iranian roads, are discussing plans for new production in the country of more than 80 million people.
Both Renault and Peugeot have a strong basis in Iran, but they have had a bumpy road for return after leaving the country when the West intensified sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The Iranian market is highly important and the turnaround in Renault’s business this year after massive losses during the years it was absent from the country came courtesy of resuming sales to Iran.
Renault says its sales in Iran increased by more than 100 % to 68,365 vehicles in the first half of 2017, a nearly 10 % market share.