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Chrysler Corporation in Turkey: Lasting images

by Bill Watson

In 1962, Chrysler worked on a joint venture with Turkish investors, putting up 60% of the funds for the new Chrysler Sanaya A.S. The first trucks were made in 1964, but the venture had an impact long after the American group pulled out.

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The joint venture was successful, selling many trucks from American and English (Commer, Karrier) designs; production was not enormous, given the size of the market, but it appears to have been profitable. As they did in the rest of Europe, Chrysler leaned on Perkins diesel engines. The facility, around 40 kilometers from Istanbul, was a 109-acre site, including 40,000 square meters of floor space, with stamping lines and a body shop; production capacity in 2003 was an impressive 9,000 trucks per shift.

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Then Chrysler Corporation reached a crisis, and sold essentially their entire presence in Europe to buy a few more months of life, while great changes were made at home. That included Chrysler Sanaya, sold in 1978 to Tatko, Ciftciler, and Rusensad (Turkish investors). The agreement included continued technical support and a patent license.

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Renamed Chrysler Kamyon Imalat ve Ticaret A.S., the firm kept building Dodge, Fargo and DeSoto trucks in Turkey. Development would have to be brought in-house, since Chrysler no longer worked in commercial trucks, beyond American-designed Dodge pickups and chassis cabs. The resources of Commer, Karrier, and such were no longer available; but Perkins continued to improve its diesels.

Starting in 1991, Chrysler Kamyon Imalat ve Ticaret A.S. also made Hino (part-owned by Toyota) trucks while importing Chrysler passenger car and sport utility vehicles, and exporting trucks to Egypt. Chrysler continued to provide components and technical assistance, and the patent agreement remained in place.

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Starting in 1996, the company started building knockdown trucks for assembly in Egypt, "within the framework of the license and technical cooperation agreement."

After the 1998 Daimler takeover, Chrysler restarted the sale of cars in Turkey under their own name. The Turkish firm's ability to market Chrysler and Dodge vehicles in Turkey ended in 2002; the local group, which was already building Hino trucks in any case, changed its name to Askam Kamyon Imalat ve Ticaret A.S., and used the Fargo, DeSoto, and Hino names. By this time, Chrysler was selling all its Chrysler- and Jeep-branded vehicles in Turkey. Askam made trucks from 3.5-40 tons.

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In 2003, 30%-owner Ciftciler Group (in English, "Farmers Group") bought the shares of the other two stockholders, Tatko and Rusensad. On the outside, little changed, with Fargo, DeSoto, and Hino trucks still built and sold (though the Fargo and DeSoto names now masked designs from Daewoo and LDV).

A decade later, the company stopped production for a time, with a rumor flying that it would make Chinese trucks in Turkey. The plans did not pan out; production had apparently stopped some time ago, but in 2015 it was official. Askam would sell spare parts, but the company itself appeared to be bankrupt, the tooling sold off.

In passenger cars, the sole Chrysler Corporation brand to survive in Turkey through to 2016 was Jeep, a niche player.

Chrysler, Dodge, and Fargo cars and trucks in Turkey

Mike Sealey wrote: Turkey's 1972 DeSoto truck line looked like pre-Wagoneer Jeep pickups and wagons, though the 4wd models were called "Power Wagon" just like back home, and they had Slant Sixes.

Ozcan Akengin wrote that many 1950s-1960s American vehicles are still to be found in the big cities; many American cars were left behind by American military officers. Little garages specialize in American car sales, along with more knowledgeable people who ask high prices and service the elite, rather than the average enthusiast. For parts, there aren't many sources; in Istanbul, Taksim Square has most American aftermarket stores. There are also junkyards - collections of small garages dismantling what is available.

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