Photo Essay

Iran in the Driving Seat

The country leads the Islamic world and Middle East in production of home-grown cars – seen by the authorities as a strategically-important industry.
  • Unveiling of the fourth home-grown car, the Dena. (Photo: Hamed Haghdoost, Fars News Agency)
  • The Dena launch ceremony in Tehran, April 2011. (Photo: Hamed Haghdoost, Fars News Agency)
  • Iran’s police have banned certain decorative accessories. (Photo: Mohsen Rezaei, Mehr News Agency)
  • Bashir Assad, the Syrian president, at the inauguration ceremony of the Samand manufacturing factory in Iran. (Photo: Mojtaba Takin, Mehr News Agency)
  • Bashir Assad, the Syrian president, at the inauguration ceremony of the Samand manufacturing factory in Iran. (Photo: Mojtaba Takin, Mehr News Agency)
  • Taxi-cabs in Iran used only to use Peykans (background) but in recent years turned to new national cars like the Samand (foreground). (Photo: Raoof Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)
  • Landing craft loaded with foreign cars enters Khorramshahr port in south of Iran. (Photo: i Abyar, Fars News Agency)
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, tests a car with a gas-fueled engine designed in Iran. (Photo: Roozbeh Jadidoleslam, Mehr News Agency)
  • Testing the Ghazal Irani 2 solar car at Tehran University. (Photo: Fatemeh Behboodi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s leader, visiting an exhibition dedicated to car industry achievements. During the visit, he ordered that the name of the home-grown car the Miniature be changed because it was foreign-sounding.
  • The Friday car market in Mashad, one of the busiest used-car auctions in the country. (Photo: Mehdi Boloorian, Mehr News Agency)
  • Fans of eight-cylinder cars have their own gatherings in Iran. (Photo: Mahmoud Hosseini, Fars News Agency)
  • Traffic jam in Tehran on a normal day. People call the city a “moving parking lot”. (Photo: Meghdad Madadi, Fars News Agency)
  • An old car, Zhiyan (Citroen), that was among the first cars assembled in Iran, is still seen very often in the historic city of Isfahan. (Photo: Amir Hosseini, Fars News Agency)

Iran has announced the production of a new car, called the Dena, with models costing between 14,000-25,000 US dollars.

Although three other cars, also designed by Iranians and manufactured in the country, have emerged in recent years, officials say the Dena is unprecedented because all the parts have been designed and made in Iran – although some industry experts have raised questions about the latter claim.

Car production is the country’s second largest industry behind oil-and-gas extraction. The two huge car-manufacturing operations in Iran – Iran Khodro and Saipa – along with several small private companies turned out about 1,600,000 cars last year.

According to the international Association of Car Manufacturers, Iran ranks 13th among the world’s car manufacturers and is the largest producer in the Islamic world and the Middle-East.

Another one of Iran’s home-grown cars, the Samand, is exported to Iraq, Algeria and Nigeria and it has factories operating in Syria and Venezuela.

The car industry is of great strategic importance for the Iranian authorities and governments in the past have always emphasised the need to ensure the industry remains independent. The current regime has passed strict laws for importing foreign cars so that the market of made-in-Iran vehicles – which are of inferior quality - is not endangered.

Despite the high price and limited variety of the domestic brands, young Iranians like their cars notwithstanding the lack of choice and the market for accessories – many of them decorative - is very good.

High fuel consumption and associated pollution have prompted the authorities to encourage the production of gas-fueled vehicles as well as research into and design of solar and electric- powered ones.

Last month, the second solar car, called Ghazal Irani 2 (Iranian gazelle), which was made in Tehran University, was successfully tested.

Six years ago, Iran stopped manufacturing the popular Peykan - based on the British car the Hillman Hunter - after four decades. 


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