Automakers enter race to gain Iran market share image

Sasan Ghorbani, head of the Islamic Republic’s auto-parts manufacturers association, says the Iranian auto industry conference he’s organizing in Tehran next weekend is suddenly a hotter ticket than he’d expected.

Visas will be made available upon arrival to meet a surge in demand after the last weekend’s Geneva agreement to ease trade restrictions on Iran, said Ghorbani.

“Everyone asks us, ‘Did you know that sanctions would be lifted days ahead of this conference?’” he said in an interview. “To be honest, we didn’t.”

Among confirmed participants in the Iran Auto Industry International Conference on Nov. 30 are Renault and Italy’s Pininfarina SpA, according to the event’s website. Their arrival holds out the promise of investment in an economy driven into recession by sanctions, and may add to the post-Geneva optimism that’s also on view in Iran’s unofficial currency markets, where the rial has surged since the accord was signed.

The U.S. says the deal will bring Iran benefits worth $7 billion over six months, equal to about 2.7 percent of Iran’s output in the period based on World Bank data. That includes $1.5 billion in revenue from the suspension of sanctions on industries including autos and petrochemicals.

“Eventually we are looking for partnership with international companies for joint investments to build inside Iran,” Ghorbani said. Investors “are after new markets, and I think Iran’s market is a virgin territory and has enough potential for investment.”

PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe’s second-largest carmaker, sold 458,000 vehicles in Iran in 2011 before the trade sanctions, making it the second-biggest market after France. Chief Financial Officer Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon said last year that the sanctions had cut 10 million euros ($13.5 million) a month from operating profit.

Via Bloomberg