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26 February 2024

Proton and Ikco plan to corner Muslim market

By VM Sathish




Plans are under way for a car that would be developed and built in Islamic countries and sold across the Muslim world. Proton, Malaysia’s national car company, and Iran Khodro Company (Ikco), are understood to be spearheading the project. The vehicle would have special features such as a compass to help drivers locate Makkah and space to store a copy of the Quran and a headscarf.

The scheme is one of a number of ambitious joint industrial projects proposed by the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

There are also plans to manufacture small- and medium-size aircraft, satellites and biotechnology products. Dr Manouchehr Manteghi, Ikco President and Chief Executive, said in Tehran that the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – to which the chamber of commerce is affiliated – was launching four mega-projects. The plans – for the car, planes, satellites and biotechnology products – were intended to improve technological levels in OIC member countries, he added.

Manteghi said Ikco had been nominated to help implement the proposals. And he said the company, which dominates Iran’s car market, could lead the project.

The car brand would be launched within three years to challenge the European, American and Japanese manufacturers that currently dominate the motor business. The aim is to manufacture five million units by 2011 and it would be sold in the Middle East, Africa and south-east Asia.

The project could eventually be expanded to produce light and heavy commercial vehicles and even rail wagons. Ikco has manufacturing plants in Syria and Africa as well as Iran.

Proton has been looking for new export opportunities as it has experienced problems in its domestic market.

The company reported heavy losses in the 2006-2007 financial year.

A Proton spokesman in Kuala Lumpur declined to comment on the car concept.

However the Managing Director of the parent company Proton Holdings Berhad, Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, said in the 2007 annual report that the company had been building distribution networks in key export markets, especially Iran.

Domestic car sales had declined drastically due to high oil prices and other economic reasons, causing the company to make a loss in 2007.

The firm’s current export focus was on Iran and Indonesia and it intended to form a strategic alliance with an overseas partner. The company had started assembling cars in Iran.

Mohammed Nabeel, General Manager of UAE distributor National Auto, said: “We used to import Protons but we stopped even though they are good cars.

“Now Protons are being promoted as Islamic cars and we will resume imports this year. We sell spare parts for the brand.”

Meanwhile the Islamic Development Bank is funding a feasibility study by Turkish firm Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI) into plans for an Islamic plane. The paper is called “Co-operation in the Area of Technical Development: Medium Range Regional Turbofan Airliner”, but no further details of the project are available.

TAI has modern aircraft manufacturing facilities and in addition makes aero structures for fixed and rotary wing military and commercial aircraft.

It supplies AgustaWestland, Airbus, Boeing, CASA, Eurocopter, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, MDHI and Sikorsky.