ECONOMY

Turkish Tofas aims to export 1.18 mln vans

BURSA, Turkey (Reuters) – A joint van project between Turkey’s Tofas, France’s Peugeot and Italy’s Fiat will export 1.18 million vehicles from Turkey over eight years, Industry Minster Zafer Caglayan said yesterday. The Turkish minister also told a ceremony to launch a production line for the Minicargo van that the project would bring in $11 billion in foreign currency. The new project will boost Tofas’s output capacity to 360,000 vehicles in 2008 and 400,000 in 2009 from 158,000 this year, Tofas CEO Ali Pandir said at the ceremony. «The Tofas factory’s production capacity will reach 360,000 (vehicles) in 2008 and thus it will become Fiat’s third-largest production center. Our goal is to make Tofas the biggest production factory in the Fiat group,» Pandir said. «We are continuing intensively with our investments. Our investments will increase to around -870 million ($1.23 billion) between 2007-2009,» he said. Investment this year was seen at -430 million, he said. Tofas shares were up 0.8 percent at 6.1 lira in afternoon trade in Istanbul. Fiat was up 0.9 percent and Peugeot was 1.4 percent higher. Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said the company’s market share of commercial vehicles is currently 11.8 percent and the company will produce 500,000 commercial vehicles in 2008. Fast-growing market Turkey is one of the fastest growing Central and Eastern European car markets. Amid recent stabilization of its economy and political climate it has become more attractive as a low-cost assembly base. The companies’ Minicargo light commercial vehicle will be sold by Peugeot under the name Bipper, by Citroen under the name Nema and by Fiat under the name Fiorino. Tofas was taking on an additional 2,500 staff for the plant in northwestern Turkey. Pandir said the company aimed to produce more than 1 million of the Minicargo van during its lifespan, exporting 95 percent of the vehicles from Turkey. Tofas is a joint venture between Fiat and Turkish conglomerate Koc Holding.