Deal opens up Iranian car market
Major carmakers and parts suppliers have shown up in Tehran to assess the Iranian market's "considerable potential", just one week after Iran's historic nuclear agreement with world powers.
The International Conference of the Automotive Industry, the first such event in Iran, has brought together more than 150 companies from around the globe, according to organisers.
The key industry has been battered for more than a year by Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
Industry Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said he wanted "more co-operation with foreign companies", including French manufacturers Peugeot and Renault, both of which have had a long history of doing business with Iran.
Mr Nematzadeh said he hoped for the lifting of sanctions on the car industry "by the end of December".
Iran and world powers reached an interim deal last week in Geneva, with Tehran agreeing to partially roll back its nuclear work in exchange for limited sanctions relief, including measures imposed on the car industry.
In 2011, Iran had the 11th-largest car market in the world and was the 13th-largest car producer.
Patrick Blain, president of the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, told AFP of the "considerable potential" in the Iranian market. "There is no reason not to come back," he said, adding that Iran could manufacture 1.6 million vehicles in 2014, the same number as it produced in 2011.
He highlighted the low car saturation rate of 89 vehicles per 1000 people, less than China, in a country with a population of nearly 77 million and a yearly per capita GDP of almost $US12,500 ($13,750).
Gilles Normand, director of operations for Renault in the Asia-Pacific market, said the Middle East represented a "future market" for all manufacturers.