Iran Khodro (IKCO) has started production of its luxury extension of the Samand model today (20 September) in northern Iran.

The Samand Sirir is destined for both domestic and overseas sales, although details of export markets have not yet been revealed.

Top executives from IKCO including CEO Javad Najmeddi, are at the inaugural ceremony today in the northern Iranian town of Babol in Mazandaran province to formally start production.

"The capacity of the plant in Babol is [between] 8,000-14,000 units per year," an IKCO spokesman told just-auto from Tehran.

"The second step will be the Samand LX produced there which is [with] TU5 engines - I don't know exactly [when] - maybe next year."

IKCO noted recently it believed the Iranian market to be close to saturation and was evaluating overseas options with a view to exporting around 7% of production.

IKCO particularly targets fellow Islamic countries for export such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey and has also mooted the possibility of manufacturing a vehicle cooperating with other Islamic producers.

The company currently has plants in Egypt, Syria, Senegal, Venezuela, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

A disposal of 18% from IDRO - Iran Industries Development and Renovation Organisation - earlier this year leaves the government now owning 20% of IKCO.

The automaker produced more than 680,000 cars and pick-ups in the year 21 March 2009 to 20 March 2010, some 16% ahead of the previous year and setting a new record.