Blog: Dave LeggettTehran Day 1

Dave Leggett | 30 June 2003

Tehran is apparently the second most polluted city in the world - after Mexico City - and I have seen the sun come up over the red smog mist that sits, chokingly, in the bowl of Tehran. Not good, but quite beautiful I must say. Hillman Hunters sold as Paykans and made locally (the Brits shipped over the the presses in the 1970s) - aren't the cleanest machines around. The buses are even worse. And the Tehran driving habits are a bit on the hairy side. But it works as a city. And five cents a litre for gas is enviable (poor quality fuel though).

I've had an interesting day. Been hearing some whispers on who's leaving and who's planning to come into the Iranian industry. One important element in all of Iran's international dealings is the US trade ban. It impacts in lots of indirect as well as direct ways. Just as Iran Air flies 747 jumbos but they're old and it cannot buy directly off Boeing, so investments in the auto industry are greatly affected by the US trade ban. Daewoo's low-cost simple to build cars may seem suited to this market in many ways, but now that it is part of GM it is leaving. And it is rumoured that Volkswagen may well be coming in via the back door (Chinese operations). For all investors, there is the judgement to be made on whether the US is offended or not and whether that matters in a business sense.

My first impressions? This is a young place that is changing quite rapidly (60% of the population is under 26) and there are some interesting business opportunities. It's certainly not all mullahs and demos and a market of 71 million people is not to be sniffed at. The question is: how quickly will it grow and how quickly will the Iranian auto industry modernise?

Must dash now as lamb kebabs and salad beckon. All washed down with Zam Zam Cola (can't get Coca Cola here). Nice.


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