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Will boycott campaign put the brakes on Iran's auto industry?

On the cusp of no longer facing Western sanctions, Iranian carmakers now face a domestic boycott of their vehicles over price and quality concerns.

Just as Iranian authorities are preparing for a post-sanctions economic revival, another problem has emerged. A group of Iranian citizens has launched a campaign on social media under the banner “No to Zero Cars.” In Iran, brand-new zero-mileage vehicles are referred to as “zero cars.” Thus, the campaign urges Iranian consumers to not purchase new, domestically made cars. Word of the boycott has quickly spread and in a short span of time created serious problems for the Iranian auto sector — the country’s second-biggest industry.

To be clear, cars are big business in Iran. Local carmakers and related firms account for 12% of total employment. The Iranian auto sector, which has annual turnover of some $12 billion, also supports 60 other industries, such as glassmaking, aluminum, copper, steel, rubber, textiles and paint. With sanctions set to be lifted, the government has plans for expanding the auto industry in the hopes of creating thousands of badly needed new jobs. At the heart of the government’s plans lies the lofty ambition to step up output to 3 million vehicles per year. But getting there won’t be easy — and the current picture is far from rosy.

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