Back in 2015, Tubitak, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, announced that it had licensed technology from NEVS, the National Electric Vehicle Sweden, to build a national car. Chinese owned NEVS had bought some of the assets of SAAB when it finally ground to a halt after several failed attempts to revive it. Those assets appear to be the factory and vehicle designs. The licensing was three years ago – what has happened since?
The plan was to have a proper prototype by 2019 and have vehicles in showrooms by 2021 and the Government made a statement that NEVS would be helping to build the whole eco-system around the brand including the dealer network. Soon after that announcement, the Turkish Government showed a few concepts – thinly disguised SAAB 9-3s that had bodywork from a Cadillac BLS, basically the same car underneath. At the time, the car was supposed to have a 60 mile range on pure electric power before a petrol motor kicked in. Turkey had created a consortium of five enterprises to work on the range-extended electric vehicle.
The consortium is made up of Anadolu, BMC, Kiraca Holdings, Turkcell and Zorlu Holding. The Anadolu Group has a subsidiary jointly owned by Isuzu and builds trucks under licence. It is not related the the earlier Anadol car that was in production for twenty years. BMC is also a truck manufacturer that started with the British Motor Corporation in the early 1960s before being nationalised. Turkcell is a mobile phone company and Zorlu has divisions supplying home appliances. Kiraca Holdings has fingers in a few pies: automotive, marine and design studios.
It is clear the partners in the consortium have the knowledge in design and manufacturing and also with consumer electronics – that will come in handy for the marketing as that is becoming the way for many automotive companies these days. To start with, Tubitak signed a €40M agreement with NEVS for four prototypes:
- An extended range sedan
- An extended range cross-over wagon
- A pure electric sedan
- A “traditional” petrol sedan.
It seems that the first two prototypes were never delivered and the electric sedan was – to put it politely – rubbish, with many faults and issues on arrival. So the only working prototype was the one that the consortium didn’t want! NEVS only had one job and appear to have messed that up somewhat. These mules were intended for the consortium to figure out the technology and design their own vehicles based on what they learnt.
Not much has been released since then, other than the vote gaining news of creating up to 20,000 jobs and spending $3.7B to do that – some of which is rumoured to come from Qatar. Production capacity is planned to be 200,000 units a year. The consortium appears to be having a bad time with the economy though, the devaluing of the currency in recent months has been reflected in much weaker vehicle sales in calendar Q2. Part of that was due to the increase in interest rates on loans.
Apparently 22% of all Turkey’s exports are vehicles built in the country, so a national car is of key importance to the Government. So we look forward to the end of 2019 when the real prototypes will be unveiled and at that time we’ll see if they have any hints (or bits) of Tesla – Elon Musk has been sniffing around as well. Importantly, we’ll learn the name of the new marque.