It was hard not to snigger. The Moscow motor show is one of those motoring events that brings together well-established brands and manufacturers whose technical expertise can best be described as “in development”.
And sure enough, at the far end of one of the halls we uncovered a line-up which, on first inspection, made Great Wall’s stand look like a showcase of hi-tech BMW concepts.
The brand was Saipa, and its vehicles, it must be said, looked pretty rough around the edges. The panel gaps weren’t a model of consistency, and the paint finish was, well, sporadic.
I’m presuming whoever was in charge of the stand (it was deserted, so I couldn’t ask) had the brief to reflect Saipa’s growing export figures, because all of the vehicles carried numerous customs stickers and forms.
Yet Saipa is really no laughing matter. It is, following its takeover of Pars Khodro, now the largest car brand in Iran. It has a history; it built the Citroen Dyane for many years, then manufactured its own take on the Renault 5. And it has hefty government involvement (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is said to have turned up to one of its model launches), plus a number of contracts with what we would consider mainstream manufacturers.
The Iranian market is just another potentially useful source of income for brands like Renault and Peugeot. And they’ll need to deal with people like Saipa if they want to get a foot in the door. It’ll be interesting to see how the firm’s stand compares with Europe’s top flight in, say, ten years’ time.