I was surprised recently to find out that Iran has a population of 80 million. Those 80 million people need to get around and, as it turns out, Iran has a big car industry.
Several Western and Asian manufacturers have joint ventures with local companies, but domestic product accounts for the vast majority of the million or so cars Iran builds every year.
For reasons unknown, Iran has a designated ‘national car’. Until 2005 it was the godawful Peykan, a knocked off Hillman Hunter that was so bad it actually made the people forced to buy it angry.
These days the national car is this, the Iran Khodro Samand. It started out in life, the thick end of 30 years ago, as the Peugeot 405, an excellent car. Iran Khodro starting building it under license in the mid-Nineties, then it morphed into the Samand in the early 2000s.
In the process, it acquired a front end very much like of the contemporary Chinese-market Volkswagen Santana, and a rear that reminds of something Japanese or Korean that I can’t quite put my finger on. You can still see the 405 in the roof and bonnet line, though.
Power comes from various Eighties-era Peugeot motors, mostly powered by CNG, as most cars in Iran are. It does have an awful lot of the stuff, after all.
Surprisingly, the Samand is quite widely exported around Asia and Africa. Its even found its way to Switzerland.
Obviously, the Samand is rubbish. The base ingredients are so ancient it can’t possibly be otherwise. But perhaps it’s unfair to judge it by Western standards. Under stringent sanctions, Iran simply doesn’t have access to the same technology as Western and Asian car manufacturers.
That could change soon, though, as governments opposed to the Iranian regime are set to relax sanctions, which could accelerate development. Don’t forget, Chinese cars were a joke only a decade ago and are almost up to European standards now.
By Only Motors