Turkey launches TOGG car, Erdogan’s prestige project – UKTN – 30/10/2022

Turkey has taken a series of political and economic measures in recent years to increase its independence from other countries. Now it heralds a major breakthrough for its auto industry. The first car made entirely in Turkey – developed by the Turkish Automobile Joint Venture Group (TOGG) – goes into production.

The new TOGG car factory started operations on October 29. The date carries a clear message as it marks the 99th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.

TOGG was founded in 2018 with the aim of making Turkey more independent from foreign car manufacturers. “It is an important step that contributes to the rise of the Turkish car industry,” said Emre Özpeynirci, a journalist and car expert, who has closely followed the TOGG project.

There are plans to build 175,000 cars annuallyImage: Mustafa Kamaci/AA/photo alliance

The plan for next year is to produce some 17,000 to 18,000 electric vehicles at the TOGG plant near Istanbul. The site is designed for a capacity of up to 175,000 cars per year, a target decision makers aim to achieve over the next five years.

Audience divided over TOGG

Although the TOGG factory is now starting production, it will be some time before the vehicles reach the market. The company expects the first cars to be ready in March 2023, a few months before the presidential election.

On June 18 next year, voters will decide whether to keep Erdogan in office or choose someone else to succeed him.

The success or failure of the TOGG car could affect the mood as the vehicle is widely seen as a prestige project by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The TOGG car has been promoted as the ‘people’s car’. When the project was first launched by Erdogan, people “expected this to be a car that would be affordable for everyone in Turkey,” Özpeynirci says.

Critics of President Erdogan and his party, the AKP, are sure he is using TOGG to increase his chances of reelection. “Of course, such investments are always supported by the state, but if there are political tensions, it is more likely to harm the project [a single] car was even built,” says Özpeynirci.

“It’s a big problem, this car is polarizing [opinions]zpeynirci says.

The TOGG, promoted as the ‘people’s car’, comes with a hefty price tagImage: Rasid Necati Aslim/AA/Photo Alliance

Neither affordable nor practical?

TOGG plans to sell its SUV for 900,000 Turkish lira (about €50,000), which is prohibitively expensive for most people in Turkey. Özpeynirci says ordinary consumers cannot invest more than 500,000 lira in a new car. A cheaper model will follow in one or two years.

The high selling price may not be the only disappointment for potential buyers. Turkey also lacks the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicle owners.

“Turkey’s infrastructure is not yet ready to make the switch to e-cars,” said Automotive Data CEO Hüsamettin Yalçın. Ordinary people do not have to worry about whether there will be enough charging points en route from Ankara to Istanbul, according to Yalçın.

While TOGG vehicles are designed and assembled in Turkey, components such as batteries, motors and some electrical systems are imported. To date, 51% of the materials used to build the vehicles are Turkish-made. Industry Minister Mustafa Varank has said he wants to increase this to 65% in the coming years.

For now, TOGG cars are designed for the domestic market rather than foreign buyers. This is partly due to the combination of components used to build the car, which drives up production costs, Özpeynirci says. He says that if TOGG manages to use 70% Turkish-made components, its cars will become internationally competitive.

Muhammed Kafadar contributed to this report.

This article was originally written in German.

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