France: GM Officials Meeting With Iran


Iran so far away...

Iran so far away…

GM’s alliance with PSA Peugeot-Citroen is one of the bigger mysteries of recent automotive history, fusing two badly underperforming operations tied to a market that’s desperate for consolidation. And, sure enough, as time has passed the scope of the alliance has been reduced, GM’s investment has been written down, and even core platform-sharing aspects of the alliance are being left behind. Without a strong justification in the first place, the GM-PSA alliance has now drifted into pure incomprehensibility, leaving analysts scratching their heads and wondering what comes next.

In the absence of even a basic narrative with which to make sense of the GM-PSA dealings, analysis of the situation from France has turned towards anger at GM. Though it has gone totally uncovered in the US media (at least as far as I can tell), French journalists are now alleging that GM’s PSA maneuvers were all about Iran. The allegation, if true, is stunning: that GM’s alliance with PSA was an attempt to wedge the French automaker out of a market it has long dominated, and that with relations thawing between the US and Iran, GM officials have been meeting counterpoints at Iran Khodro to prepare for GM’s re-entry into that market.

French automakers have had a long presence in Iran and PSA’s presence dates back to the Shah’s reign, selling nearly half a million vehicles there in 2011. But when GM bought into PSA, it required the French automaker to end its operations in Iran as a condition of its buy-in. At the time strengthening international sanctions against Iran provided cover for the move, although French sources insist the “highly profitable” Iran business was a GM condition rather than a legal one.

But now, with a new and apparently more moderate Iranian president in place, relations between the US and Iran seem to be thawing. And accompanying the political thaw has come efforts towards building economic contacts ahead of an expected “post-sanction environment.” And here, insist French reporters, is where things get interesting. Per Le Figaro,

“Anticipating a thaw between Washington and Tehran, U.S. companies have quietly taken up in Iran , a vast market of 80 million consumers, rich in oil and gas. “Most sectors of the U.S. economy, including Nasdaq-listed companies in recent months have sent envoys to Iran,” said a French industrialist, familiar with the Islamic Republic. These emissaries often use a Swiss passport, Berne representing U.S. interests since the severance of diplomatic relations in 1980 between the two countries.

Iranian automotive industry is particularly courted byGeneral Motors . The giant came into contact with Iran Khodro, which worked until 2012 with Peugeot to produce 206 and 405 models that the French group has stopped delivering to Iran because of Western sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear ambitions . “For at least six months as emissaries of General Motors go to Iran, they are no longer the simple identification of the market,” warns the industry, “but rather to the draft contract resumption of GM “, which was firmly established in the time of the Shah.

To educate Iranians on his return, the multinational Detroit has even offered an advertising campaign last year in several Iranian newspapers, via a large international law firm. Since then, GM has even been exported to Iran this summer Camaro models, via Azerbaijan [Story here]. “The first batch to test the market’s reaction,” says the French competitor. This initiative does not violate the Act, Executive Order 13645 signed on 3 June by Barack Obama . This Presidential Decree punishes any foreign entity that sells or supplies parts or services to Iranian automotive industry but does not outlaw the supply of vehicles.”

And as LeFigaro’s Georges Malbrunot tells RT,

“in fact this executive order was deeply targeting the French who are the only one now in the automobile sector in Iran, especially Renault, and the French contractors are very upset about that. And they interpret it as an attempt to clean the Iranian market before the return of US companies in Iran. “

In the words of another French commentator,

“It is difficult not to see the agreement between PSA and GM as a huge scam.”

Now, proving that GM’s investment in PSA was nothing more than part of a ruse to steal the Iranian market would not be easy (although circumstantial supporting evidence does exist). On the other hand, if GM officials are using Swiss passports to line up partnerships with Iranian firms, the American people who still own part of GM deserve to know the truth. Though GM’s treatment of PSA might seem especially shabby to the French who are facing the loss of at least one of their major automakers, Americans are more likely to have a moral problem with the mere fact that a government-owned business may have been secretly making plans for post-sanction economic ties with a country like Iran.

This story has been reported on for weeks in France, and the US media has yet to ask GM or the government if their representatives have been traveling to Iran and meeting with Iranian officials. Hopefully some enterprising reporter out there will realize that the US’s shifting Iran policy has economic and diplomatic implications that go beyond Israel, and will help clear up whether or not the US government is pushing for closer ties between its state-owned companies and Iran’s.