Iran's largest automaker, Iran Khodro Company (IKCO), cut the ribbon on its first European production facility last week in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, making the IKCO Samand (pictured) the first Islamic car produced in Europe.
IKCO CEO Dr. Manuchehr Manteghi, speaking at the opening ceremony, said that similar Samand production facilities would open in Senegal, China and Syria later this year, and in Venzuela in January. IKCO plans to sell 100,000 Samands in Belarus in the next three years.

In the domestic market, IKCO is ramping up hybrid production in response to a government requirement that the nation's automakers produce 280,000 "light hybrid cars" in the current fiscal year. IKCO's share of hybrid production amounts to about 100,000 vehicles, according to IKCO's project manager of bi-fuel auto production, Alireza Feizbakhsh. We're guessing that 'hybrid' here may actually refer to alternative fuel vehicles - IKCO already manufactures CNG-enabled vehicles, and Feizbakhsh refers to the hybrids as "crossbreed" cars. IKCO, which also manufactures Peugeots in Iran, plans to extend the CNG option to nearly all its models in the near future.

In a bizarrely related note, Iran has lifted its ban on eight-cylinder cars, orginally imposed because of their high fuel consumption. However, it turned out that foreign automakers' V8s were often more fuel efficient than Iran's domestic models. The first V8s to enter Iran are 4-liter BMW 740 sedans, with Toyota's Land Cruiser expected to follow shortly.

[Sources: Mehr News Agency, Iran Khodro, via Inside Line]

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