Group promises ‘brand new’ platform for first domestic car

Group promises ‘brand new’ platform for first domestic car

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Group promises ‘brand new’ platform for first domestic car

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sits on the driving seat of a Ford Otosan car as Musafa Koç of the Koç Holding accompanies him during a ceremony in the northwestern province of Kocaeli in 2009. Koç has said it is studying with Fiat, its Italian partner in Tofaş, on a domestic car production upon a call by the government. AA photo

Tofaş, the local carmaker that announced it will build the first domestic passenger car with limited help from Fiat, will use a totally new platform for the project, according to the head of Koç Holding, which co-owns Tofaş with the Italian company. 

“We will neither use the current facilities of Albea nor Palio models of Fiat in Turkey,” Mustafa Koç, the Koç chairman, told the press on the sidelines of the Turkish Industry & Business Association (TÜSİAD) general assembly yesterday. 

Tofaş will receive only technical support from Fiat, Koç added. Tofaş currently produces Fiat cars in the northwestern province of Bursa. 

The Turkish government is urging local industries to launch a domestic car brand. The government is set to unveil a domestic auto production incentive scheme next month as companies other than Fiat and Turkey’s Tofaş may also launch such projects in time, said Turkey’s Science Technology and Industry Minister Nihat Ergün on Jan.18.

“This will be a car that everyone could purchase, a mid-range car,” Koç told the press, adding that there was not a schedule and the volume of the probable investment was still being discussed.
“Turkey has to understand the difference between a national brand and national car,” said Ali Kibar, chief executive of Hyundai Assan, on the sidelines of the TÜSİAD meeting, regarding recent claims that the national car of the country might be produced under the Fiat and Tofaş partnership. 

“For some models, our production is also based nearly 60 percent on domestic production. If this is the case, we should also be considered as a national auto then,” Kibar added, criticizing the current bid by Koç Holding.

Shift in top Tofaş post

Koç’s statements came only one day after Ali Pandir, Tofaş’s chief executive, resigned, leaving his seat to Kamil Başaran, according to a filing by the company to the Istanbul Stock Exchange (İMKB).

Ali Pandir had been the chief executive officer of Tofaş since Nov. 1, 2006, and the resignation would take effect as of today, the filing said, adding that Pandir would be assigned to another position within the Fiat group. 

Başaran started working for Tofaş in 1984. He was assigned to Fiat’s international organization in Italy in 2004. He worked there as the director of supplier development and cost management department between 2004 and 2007. He was the chief executive of Martur and Fompak, automotive sub-industry firms, before the assignment to Tofaş’s top helm.

Ford Otosan to boost investment

Meanwhile, Ford Otosan, the Turkish unit of Ford Motor Co. in partnership with Koç Holding, plans to invest in a light vehicles facility with an annual capacity of 110,000 items, in a bid to support its exports, according to General Manager Nuri Otay. 

Investment will take place in the first quarter of this year, Otay said during a press meeting in Istanbul yesterday.

The company plans to boost investments up to $1 billion this year and a $250 to $300 billion portion will be allocated to the new facility, he said. 

However, Ford Otosan expects to produce 288,000 vans this year, fewer than the record 296,000 it built in 2011.

The company paid 519 million Turkish Liras ($283 million) of dividends in 2011, the general manager said. 

Gökhan Kurtaran from Istanbul contributed to this report.