Is the future electric? With cities choking for air, gas prices at an insane level and climate change on our minds, consumers are looking for more efficient and sustainable ways to get around. Electric cars may have reached the turning point in the last year where people no longer see it as the car of the future.
Automakers from Tesla to Rivian to Cadillac have invested in EVs and consumers still want them even though global market conditions and rising commodity costs for key materials in EV batteries have driven up the cost by as much as 20%.
Despite this the wealthy oil nation of Oman has unveiled its first all electric vehicle, the Mays i E1, and now Turkey, always seen as a bridge between Europe to the west and the Middle, has unveiled its first all electric car. It’s called the Togg.
In 2017 Turkey’s President Erdoğan started the country’s first electric vehicle company. His government built a coalition and in 2019 a couple of concept cars were presented.
Americans were able to see the cars at CES in Las Vegas in January. As Shai Agassi from Israel learned when trying to start an all electric car company out of Israel 15 years ago, called Better Place, electric cars need to be reasonably priced and they need to be attractive. By the time his car was unveiled, along with Peugeot, neither the car nor the price point cut the mustard. There was no status in driving one and the masses couldn’t afford to anyway, and the almost billion dollars invested in the idea went down the drain. You can look through our archives to learn more about the business model and the eventual decline of Better Place.
This all happened before Tesla and before Musk started building his infrastructure in California. Even Governor Gavin Newsom was keen on the Israeli Better Place for California (see our story from 2008).
Togg turned to car designer Murat Günak who designed the car to look like it’s a generic SUV you can find in Mazda, Volvo, VW or BMW. A safe place. Not what Tesla did. Is it a box or bubble? Read this NY Times article. We’d like to expect something more exciting from Turkey. Islamic design has always been a step above that of the west in my opinion. Next line, maybe be a bit more daring and not follow the pack?
While Turkey once ruled a vast empire in the west and east, it struggles now to hold alliances between Europe and Russia. Recently Prime Minister Erdogen told Finland and Sweden not to join NATO. Not that they will listen unless Erdogen threatens to send Turkey’s vast number of its 3.6 million Syrian refugees to European borders.
The truth is that Turkey would love to be part of the EU and no matter what it does or doesn’t do, Europe is not ready to let Turkey play. Its role in the Middle East is no longer what it was to Europe, I assume, now that the UAE and Saudi Arabia enjoy oil wealth and have stepped into becoming modern nations. I guess to play it safe Turkey needs to follow, not lead in EVs.
A novel idea would be to employ the Syrian and Afghani refugees in the new Turkish EV plant but I assume Turkey nations would be vying for those jobs themselves. I am a daughter of a GM employee who worked in a Canadian plant all his life. I also worked for Chrysler on weekends when I was going to university. Car plants can pay well.
Car plants can also improve the welfare of communities if labor benefits and a good salary are paid to employees. If Turkey does this right that might be able to earn a much better standing in alliances with the west.
In Turkey, car production will be supported by government incentives and they will be built on Turkish soil. A JV with a China EV battery company Farasis (in a JV called Siro) will keep the supply chain close to home, a worry in an unstable commodities market. Daimer and Mercedes also work with Farasis.
The Turkish government has also committed to buying 30,000 cars over the next 10 years. A VAT exemption, income tax withholding support for 10 year, qualified personnel support (up to $24M USD) are some of the other corporate incentives the government has agreed with.
I am looking forward to how this news rolls out. Togg could be the electric bridge we need between the east and west.