Turkey’s Erdoğan unveils prototypes of locally made cars

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled the first prototypes of a series of locally made cars to be assembled with an investment of 22 billion liras ($3.7 billion).

The motor vehicles, all of them electric, will include two jeeps, two saloon models and a people carrier. The Automobile Joint Venture Group (TOGG) will start production in 2022 at facilities in western Turkey designed to build 175,000 units a year.

Speaking at a ceremony to reveal the models on Friday, Erdoğan said Turkey aimed to become a global leader in car production and a major exporter. The vehicles will be locally made and production will not depend on licences from abroad, he said in a speech.

Two of the models then appeared from beneath the floor of a stage accompanied by dramatic music and an elaborate display of lights and big-screen video footage.

Erdoğan first announced the project in 2011, but it took six years before TOGG was established by a Turkish consortium that includes motor-vehicle maker Anadolu Group, BMC and Turkcell, Turkey’s largest mobile phone operator.

The first car to be produced will be a C-class SUV, according to information on TOGG’s website. It has been designed by Italy’s Pininfarina.

A presidential decree published on Friday stated that the investment in Turkey’s Bursa region would benefit from free land allocation, a government purchase guarantee of 30,000 vehicles, tax cuts and interest rate reductions.

Plans to build the new car constitute one of several so-called “mega-projects” announced by Erdoğan over the past decade. One, a $20 billion airport in Istanbul set to be the world’s largest once fully built, opened to much fanfare in 2018. Another, the $20-billion Kanal Istanbul, was announced in 2011 and will divert shipping from the Bosporus straits. It is still in the planning stages and is opposed by the city’s mayor and environmental groups.

The investment comes at a time when Turkish motor vehicle sales have slumped following a currency crisis in August 2018. Local and foreign firms sold 339,546 units in the first 10 months of the year. Sales exceeded 1 million units in 2015 and 2016 before falling to 986,829 units in 2017 and 641,550 last year.

The industry will undergo a partial recovery in 2020, with growth of between 15 percent and 20 percent, Haydar Yenigün, chief of the Automotive Manufacturers' Association (OSD), said this month.