By Eleftheria Piperopoulou
In the early 1990s it was considered one of the most modern automotive industries in Europe, with … robotics, modern systems and automation. However, in 1995, having produced a total of 170,000 cars, it closed. The reason for the existence of the old TEOKAR factory is in Nek. I. Theocharakis SA in Volos.
Since then, different scenarios have been heard – from time to time – about its reactivation, which, however, have not been confirmed until today. A few years ago, after the signing of a “Letter of Intent for Cooperation” between Enterprise Greece and Greek electric vehicle manufacturer Next.e.GO, it was at the center of discussions about the site where production takes place for 30,000 vehicles per year. However, as Capital.gr has been informed, the company never had any contact to investigate the building. Meanwhile, the specified investment seemed to be “frozen”, while the German company announced that it would build a production unit in … Skopje.
Today, the plant operates a 6 megawatt photovoltaic park.
But how was the model factory established and what happened that one of the largest factories in Greece suddenly closed?
The beginning, the war and the arrival of April
Nick’s story. I. Theocharakis SA started in 1924. Then Nikolaos I. Theocharakis has a small personal project for the supply of cars and liquid fuels in Piraeus. A second store in Athens soon followed, while already before the start of World War II, the company was the largest importer of auto parts and materials in Greece. In 1937 Nick. Theocharakis established a factory to produce car brakes and upholstery, but it went out of business because of the war.
After the war, the company expanded its activities in the field of automobile tires and in 1957 acquired the exclusive Yokohama dealership. The year 1961 was a landmark year in the history of the Group, when Nikolaos Theodocharakis, together with his two sons, Ioannis and Vasileios, took over the exclusive dealership of Nissan cars in Greece – the first official dealership of Nissan Motor Co. in Europe. Meanwhile, in 1965, Nick absorbed the sole proprietorship of Nikolaos Theocharakis. I. Theocharakis SA
Creation of TEOKAR and Volos Plans
In 1976, Theocharakis family founded TEOKAR Ltd. It expanded its activities to include the production of vehicles. Initially, they manufactured boxcars for light Datsun Pick-Up trucks at a unit on Thivon Street in Aegaleo. In 1978, the company was put on a new footing. Plans began to build a large assembly plant in Volos and TEOKAR became a limited company.
At the time the Theocharakis family suggested Nissan set up an assembly plant in Greece, the Japanese automaker had 48 factories around the world, most of which were subsidiaries and a few that were independent. In addition, the Greek market was small, but the Theocharakis family’s bid offered Nissan the opportunity to secure its share of the broader European market, particularly in light of impending EU restrictions.
In January 1979, factory facilities were set up in the Volos industrial park, where the Renault-Peugeot automobile plant was originally planned to be built. The choice of Volos to build the assembly plant was not accidental, as the city offered a number of advantages: it was an important port, which allowed components to be imported from Japan, while at the same time being connected by national road and railway.
The plot area is 264 acres, of which the factory occupies 16,500 square meters. The facilities have been expanded gradually and the total area of covered production areas has reached 35,000 square meters.
Assembly began in February 1980 with the one-ton Datsun Pick Up 1600 light truck, and the Datsun Cherry passenger car soon followed. In the first year of operation, 4,685 cars were assembled.
TEOKAR’s facilities have been constantly improved, applying the latest Japanese technology and production methods, while in 1986 the electric welding of body parts was automated. Then, in the early 1990s, an automated system was implemented.
In 1981, TEKOM was established, whose facilities were erected alongside those of TEOKAR. The new factory manufactured seats as well as metal parts for pickup trucks for light trucks. Then in 1983, businessmen bought Kiihler, which made refrigerators. In high season, the three factories in Volos employed 660 people.
In the following years, production ranged between 10,000 and 11,000 units per year. By the early 1980s, production was the highest in the country and accounted for nearly half of the domestic auto industry’s output. During the 15 years of TEOKAR unit operation, a total of about 170,000 units were assembled, while the most popular vehicles were the Sunny and the simple Pick Up.
proposal for a larger plant and … Britain
In 1990, TEKOM was ranked among the 50 most profitable industries in the Greek economy. In addition, TEOKAR, in the estimation of Nissan Japan, ranked first among all assembly plants operating worldwide under the Nissan name, and was the model.
Indeed, in the early 1980s, Nissan made an official proposal to the Theocharakis family to jointly create a larger assembly plant. However, Greek legislation discouraged the Japanese automaker, which partnered with Great Britain and established a large factory in Sunderland.
“Clouds” and the end
However, despite the successful course of these production projects, there was no shortage of problems. At the beginning of the 1990s, no other plant with a body similar to TEOKAR was operating in Europe anymore, because in order to be viable it had to produce at least 200,000 vehicles per year, a quantity in reality that was not achievable.
In Greece, the cost of producing cars was high. In addition, the company addressed the limited Greek market, not receiving or issuing important government orders.
The business was also affected by the unstable government policy regarding industrial production and automobile consumption. For example, in 1991-1992 the country enacted legislation regarding recalls of old cars, but without warning, which did not allow TEOKAR to plan its production to meet the increase in demand, thus losing a large share of the market.
In the following years, there was a recession in the car market, and the company found itself with stocks that it was unable to market. At the same time, a change in excise tax rates in 1993 shifted the Greek consumer to cars of larger or smaller displacement. All this gradually led to the factory’s withering and final cessation of operations in 1995.
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