Turkey’s Domestic Car Brand Initiative: Chasing a Paradigm Shift in an Already Glutted Auto Industry

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Dincer, Evren


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2019)


Turkey’s automobile industry as we know it today started in the 1960s as part of an import-substituting policy. The first five-year development program set the stage for commercial motor vehicles and parts industry, while the second one urged a fast and steady development in the passenger vehicle segment of the industry. FIAT and Renault arrived in the late 1960s and early 1970s to develop a domestic industry mostly catering to growing middle classes in a tightly protected trade environment. The hegemony of this duo went unchallenged until the pressures of globalization and more relaxed trade environment brought Toyota, Honda, Ford and Hyundai starting in the second half of the 1990s. The constellation moved Turkey to top 15 in the world in terms of output and sparked the interest among politicians to push for a domestic brand and become a global player. Also considered as the trademark of Turkey’s rise to prominence from a “developing country” status, 100 % domestic car brand (this is how it is branded domestically) is expected to serve as the face of new Turkey. The project started as a project to design and build the “Turkish Corolla” for middle classes across the world, however it recently evolved into a niche project for the rising market of fully electric vehicles, the justification of which was to catch the technological paradigm shift re-shaping the industry worldwide. Still vehemently supported by President Erdogan, the project is still alive and in the process of determining its plant site. Even though first vehicles were promised to be on the road as early as 2020, which is only a year away, the project is far from keeping up with the promised schedule. This presentation is about the rise and already crisis-ridden history of this initiative and it uses it as an optic to historicize the automobile industry in Turkey. Its emergence and development will be put in context of the auto industry in Turkey, which is a peripheral auto manufacturer, to shed light on potential paths to be taken by large manufacturers without a domestic brand. It also provides perspective into how a technological catch-up is planned and executed in Turkey and how this could help us understand countries of similar positionings.

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