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    Iranian automakers to merge

    TEHRAN, Sept 29 (AFP) - The Iranian government has decided to merge the country's automakers into two large state firms, Deputy Industry Minister Akbar Torkan said in remarks published Tuesday.

    "The preparatory work is nearly complete and the automobile manufacturers are to be merged into two large firms, Iran Khodro and Iran Saipa," newspapers here quoted Torkan as saying.

    He said the plan would be to combine the operations of some 10 automakers.

    Pars Khodro, which makes the Japanese utility vehicle the Nissan Patrol, would not be affected by the merger.

    Iran Khodro, which is in partnership with France's Peugeot, is the country's largest vehicle manufacturer with a 65 percent share of the market.

    It makes the Peugeot 405 and the Peykan, the former British car Hilman, and is to start production of the Peugeot 205.

    Iran Saipa was initially set up to produce the Renault 5 and is currently making the Pride of South Korea's Kia Motors. Saipa has also gone into partnership with France's Citroen to produce the Xantia.

    Other automakers such as Iran Khavar and Iran Chahab, which make trucks and other vehicles, notably Mercedes, are among the firms which will be merged with Iran Khodro and Iran Saipa.

    In February, the Iranian government said it planned to invest nearly one billion dollars in the auto industry.

    Iran's automakers produced 145,000 vehicles of different types between March and June of this year and total output is expected to rise 37.5 percent over the previous year in the March 1998 to March 1999 period to 220,000 units.

    Torkan said Iran expects to production to rise to some 500,000 vehicles a year within three years.


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