Turkey launches first electric car on 99th anniversary of the country’s foundation
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan rolled out the country’s first domestically-produced electric car Togg in its Bursa plant in a flamboyant ceremony on Saturday evening -the 99th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic- while critics said the whole project was turned into a political show ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
Attending the opening ceremony of the Togg Gemlik Campus in the northwestern province of Bursa, where the car will be mass-produced, Erdogan took a test drive, state news agency Anadolu said.
"We are all witnessing the fulfillment of the 60-year-old dream," Erdogan said, adding "Togg is the name of the project that gives us all the pleasure of establishing this common dream for the strong future of our country."
Togg will hit the roads in the first quarter of 2023, and when the plant reaches full capacity, 175.000 vehicles will be produced annually, he said.
"When Togg enters Europe's roads with all these models, what will they say? 'Turks are coming," the Turkish president said.
Turkey is heading for presidential and parliamentary elections next year. The TOGG car success or failure could influence the vote, as the vehicle is widely seen as a prestige project by President Tayyip Erdogan. The TOGG automobile has been promoted as the "people's car."
Indeed, when the project was first launched by Erdogan, people "expected this would be a car affordable to everyone in Turkey," said Emre Ozpeynirci, a journalist and automotive expert, who has been closely following the TOGG project.
TOGG plans selling its SUV at 900,000 Turkish lira (roughly 50,000€), which is unaffordable for most people in Turkey. Ozpeynirci said ordinary consumers could invest no more than 500,000 lira for a new car. In one or two years, a more affordable model will follow.
Opposition leaders in Turkey declined an invitation by the government to join the ceremony.
“If this invitation had come from the management of the company, we would have gladly attended and given a standing ovation for the first vehicle to come off the mass production line. But Erdogan and his company are trying to turn a special project carried out by this special initiative into a political show,” CHP (Republican People’s Party) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.