Peugeot stops exporting CKD kits to Iran, GM blamed

Many believe that a U.S. lobby is behind the decision.

Peugeot is one of the rare western automakers to hold a significant share of the Iranian market. The company's ties to the Middle Eastern nation go back to 1978, when it purchased the remains of Chrysler's shattered European operations.

Since that point, Iran has grown to become a key market in Peugeot's global strategy. In 2011, over 450,000 complete knock-down (CKD) kits were delivered there, a number which equates to about 21% of Peugeots sold globally.

In spite of these positive numbers, the automaker has announced that it stopped exporting CKD kits to Iran in early March, and that it doesn't plan on exporting any in April, either. A spokesman for Peugeot said that the decision was taken because of Iran's risky financial situation.

"It is getting harder for western banks to work with Iranian banks, so we can't fund our operations," explained the spokesman.

The European media has been quick to point out that rival Renault is also present in Iran, and that it has not experienced issues with Iranian banks. Instead, media outlets and industry analysts alike give a completely different explanation. The deliveries of the CKD kits stopped at about the same time that General Motors purchased a 7% stake in PSA Peugeot Citroën. Many suspect the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) lobby in the United States to have convinced General Motors to ask Peugeot to stop all exports towards Iran. The lobby has voiced its criticism of Peugeot's Iranian operations several times.

"In light of the 2008-2009 taxpayer funded $50 billion bailout of GM and the U.S. Treasury Department's current 32% stake in GM, it is unacceptable for GM to enter into a partnership with a company that so openly deals with a regime that is responsible for the deaths of U.S. and NATO servicemen and threatens U.S. and global security," wrote UANI president Mark Wallace in a letter to General Motors CEO Dan Akerson. Wallace wrote a similar letter to Philippe Varin, the chairman of Peugeot's managing board.

A spokesman for Peugeot tried to play down the situation by pointing out that although the cars are built by the French automaker, they are assembled and sold by Iran Khodro, a company that is completely independent from Peugeot. This explains why the Iranian operation only accounts for approximately 1.5% of Peugeot's annual revenues.

However, an unnamed source inside of Peugeot sees the matter a little differently. "Our activities in Iran cost us very little, and provide an excellent return on our investment," explained the source in France's Le Figaro magazine.

Most of the Peugeots sold in Iran are variations of the 206 and the 405. The latter bowed in 1987 and hasn't been built in Europe in about fifteen years; the former was introduced in 1998 and is still sold in Europe as the 206+, a low-cost alternative to the 207.

At the time of writing, Peugeot claims that it has only temporarily stopped exports to Iran. If the decision becomes permanent, about 350 employees of Peugeot's Vesoul, France, factory are expected to be affected.

Peugeot will release more information on this matter at a conference that it will hold next Thursday.