FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Daimler (DAIGn.DE) on Monday said its trucks division had signed letters of intent with joint venture partners in Iran as part of the German truck maker's re-entry into the Iranian market following the lifting of international sanctions.
Iran has opened up as an export market following years of economic isolation as world powers lifted sanctions in return for Tehran's compliance with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Daimler said it would cooperate with Iran Khodro Diesel (IKD) and Iran's Mammut Group, establishing a joint venture for local production of Mercedes-Benz trucks and powertrain components, plus the establishment of a sales company for Mercedes-Benz trucks.
Furthermore, there are plans for Daimler to return as a shareholder in the former engine joint venture Iranian Diesel Engine Manufacturing Co. (IDEM).
Daimler Trucks intends to open a representative office in Tehran during the first quarter of 2016, the Stuttgart, Germany-based company said.
The first Mercedes-Benz Actros and Axor trucks could be supplied to the country in the form of CKD (completely knocked down) kits - or fully disassembled - before the end of the year, Daimler said.
In addition to the plans for Mercedes-Benz trucks, Daimler Trucks also sees great opportunities for its Mitsubishi FUSO brand – especially in the light-duty truck segment.
To open up this market, Daimler and Mammut have signed a distribution agreement for the FUSO brand.
Daimler can build on a long and successful history in Iran: The company has been present in the market with Mercedes-Benz trucks and passenger cars since 1953, interrupted only by the sanctions phase between 2010 and 2016.
Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles are still present there and remain very visible on Iran's roads. Previously, Daimler sold up to 10,000 vehicles per year in Iran, most of them commercial vehicles.
A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars said the luxury auto maker was preparing to re-enter Iran's market, but said it was too early to provide details about how this would happen.
Rival BMW said: "Entry into the Iranian market at a future date will depend on political and economic developments."
A spokesman for Opel, a unit of United States auto maker General Motors (GM.N), said: "U.S. sanctions continue to place significant limits on GM and its non-U.S. operations. Accordingly, our position toward trade with Iran remains unchanged."
Reporting by Edward Taylor and Irene Preisinger; Editing by Christoph Steitz, Mark Potter and Adrian Croft