Turkey's domestic car dream nears fruition half a century later

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 28.10.2019 23:22
The only one of the original four Devrim cars that have reached today on display at a museum in the central province of Eski?ehir, Oct. 28, 2019. (AA Photo)
The only one of the original four Devrim cars that have reached today on display at a museum in the central province of Eski?ehir, Oct. 28, 2019. (AA Photo)

Despite an unsuccessful first try many years ago, Turkey never gave up on manufacturing a fully domestic car. It is close to realizing its dream and the public is eagerly awaiting the debut of the first prototype of the new indigenous car in December

Turkey's lengthy journey to produce domestic automobiles, which started with Devrim (Revolution) in 1961, is now coming to an end under the initiative of Turkey's Automobile Joint Venture Group (TOGG), formed by the five largest Turkish industrialists that will develop the country's first domestically manufactured automobile, whose first prototype will make its debut in December.

Half a century has passed since Turkey achieved its goal of producing domestic automobiles with the Devrim. As the first car developed and produced in Turkey, it was a glimmer of hope during the early 1960s and the symbol of the dream to produce a fully domestic automobile.

On June 16, 1961, then-President Cemal Gürsel unveiled his mission to develop an automobile that would meet the needs of the Turkish military for street cars. The mission was addressed to the National Railways of the Republic of Turkey (TCDD). A team was commissioned and the car was designed and manufactured in a short time, with some difficulties encountered during the design of the engine and the gearbox.



STORY BEGAN 58 YEARS AGO

Despite these technical difficulties and political problems, Devrim was showcased on Oct. 29, 1961, on the 38th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic, and then drove off to take Gürsel to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's mausoleum Anıtkabir.

Four cars manufactured upon the instruction of Gürsel at the Turkish Locomotive and Motor Industry Inc. (TÜLOMSAŞ), then named Eskişehir Railway Factories, were taken to Ankara by train on that October day.

One of these vehicles, which had insufficient gasoline in its tank per railway laws at the time, stopped when it ran out of fuel while Gürsel was behind the wheel for testing purposes.

The car was later taken back to the central province of Eskişehir and was used in the factory for a while.

However, the fact that the car suddenly stopped on the road due to insufficient gasoline paved the way for the negative propaganda about the Devrim to further intensify, followed by the termination of the project.

Only one of the four Devrim cars manufactured under the domestic automobile project has reached the present time in a working state. The car is kept in a glass-encased section converted into a museum in the garden of TÜLOMSAŞ.

According to TÜLOMSAŞ officials, the first domestic car manufactured by Turkish engineers and workers under challenging conditions has turned into a center of attraction in its new home following a comprehensive maintenance procedure that started on Sept. 5, 2017. The car has been visited by approximately 250,000 people in 20 months.

Devrim, exhibited at TÜLOMSAŞ with the 0002 chassis number and 0002 engine number, was produced in four-and-a-half months in completely domestic facilities, except for its tires and windscreen. Devrim, which can be operated manually and has an ignition switch and manual headlamps, stands out with these features.

Weighing 1,250 kilograms and reaching a maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour, Devrim does not include gasoline for safety reasons, while the car's battery is currently dismantled.

In the museum — where the welding engine used in the production of the car, the drill and lathe benches, the camera capturing the manufacturing stages, calipers, compasses, ruler, drawing table, the model of the vehicle made of limestone, spare parts and the visuals of the project are displayed — the 58-year-old Devrim is being visited by both Eskişehir residents and local and foreign tourists.

Hüseyin Avni Sönmez, a visitor from Istanbul, said he had seen Devrim several times before. "It is my second or third visit, but I am touched each time. It is very solid, and I wish I had a car like this. If it were manufactured, we would buy it," he told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Aliye Olgun from Manisa says she was quite excited and impressed when she saw Devrim, which was the genesis of Turkey's domestic automobile story. Olgun explains that firsts always have such a unique aspect. "I felt very lucky and happy," she added.

TURKEY'S AUTOMOBILE PROJECT

In November 2017, Turkey ventured into a groundbreaking initiative to manufacture its domestic automobile. The project has brought together the country's largest manufacturers and companies in a consortium that includes Anadolu Group, BMC, Kök Group, Turkcell and Zorlu Holding, all experienced in their own areas of operation.

The initiative came after repeated calls from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a joint car project by the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) and the Industry and Technology Ministry.

The five domestic firms, now with 19% shares each, and the TOBB, with 5% of the shares, lead the TOGG joint venture.

The TOGG Industry and Trade Inc.'s foundation and partnership agreements were signed on May 31, 2018. On Sept. 1, 2018, Mehmet Gürcan Karakaş was appointed as the CEO of TOGG.

The project, regarded as a turning point in terms of the Turkish industry and technology, aimed to create a comprehensive strategy that would provide a completely different position in the sector by monitoring technology and consumer trends.

TOGG looks to design the automobile in accordance with the views and expectations of the Turkish people and it is also conducting a very comprehensive and professional consumer survey throughout the country.

MASS PRODUCTION IN 2022

Considered one of the most visionary projects of Turkey, the automobile is first planned to hit the market as a sport utility vehicle (SUV) in the C Segment. The number of models is projected to increase to five in the following years.

The project includes plans for a 15-year investment initiative consisting of three phases. The project, whose intellectual and industrial property rights will be fully owned by Turkey, is expected to contribute 50 billion euros to the Turkish economy and 7 billion euros to the current account deficit, and create direct and indirect employment for 4,000 and 20,000 people, respectively.

The indigenous automobile is said to be ready for mass production by 2022, with exports expected to begin two years later.

C SEGMENT ELECTRIC SUV

Turkey's domestic automobile journey, which is considered the country's second automobile revolution, continues as planned.

In his speeches at various meetings, mainly about new transportation models and technologies at home and abroad, TOGG CEO Karakaş stated that Turkey will start to introduce the electric vehicle to the market in the middle of 2022 and that this vehicle will be ready for the same level of autonomous driving as its competitors.

"In Turkey's automobile (project), we have scheduled what we do every week and every month until its release in 2022. The plan runs like clockwork," Karakaş said at an event in May.

He stated that TOGG would create a wide range of mobility ecosystems from charging infrastructure to the connection of objects, from new startups to new subsidiary industries. "Turkey's companies that will create synergy in technology are within our body. We will invest in the growing segment. We will enter the market in 2022 with an electric SUV in the C segment. We want to direct it to EU-based export markets in a couple of years," Karakaş noted.

PROTOTYPE DEBUTS IN DECEMBER

The first 3D prototype of the car, based on a 1:4 scale, was showcased on Aug. 5 during a council meeting of the TOGG. Karakaş emphasized that the prototype of an SUV in the C segment, which is innately electric, will not only be a model, but also a moving vehicle.

Officials have said that the first prototype of the car will be displayed to the public in December.

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