Afghan firm eyes emerging middle class with new cars, trucks

KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan company has unveiled a range of small trucks and passenger vans which it hopes will appeal to a local market still dominated by second-hand Japanese models imported via Dubai.

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The firm, Amin Noor, presented the vehicles at a ceremony in the capital Kabul, a reminder that in a country beset by militant violence and political instability there are companies working hard to tap a small but growing middle class.

Beyond the security challenges, firms also face the added hurdle of power cuts that are a regular occurrence across Afghanistan.

“The overall cost is much cheaper than those products we import to Afghanistan,” Economy Minister Mustafa Mastoor told Reuters at the ceremony, where white vans, trucks and cars were decorated in red ribbon.

Some were electric and powered by rechargeable batteries, others by diesel.

“We are confident that the Afghan market will welcome these type of products, not only from Amin Noor company but all other investors if they come and invest in quality products.”

There are 11 different models in total, priced between $1,200 and $2,500. Amin Noor has produced 200 vehicles to date.

For company manager Ahmad Zia Ahmadyar, the next phase for Amin Noor - which produces vehicles at its factory in Balkh province in the north of Afghanistan - was to reduce the number of parts that needed importing.

“After three years, we were able to produce up to 80% of the parts of these vehicles ourselves,” he said.

“Our goal is to produce the parts of these vehicles that we still import from abroad, such as the engine, tires, and window glass ... in the next five or 10 years.”

Reporting by Hameed Farzad; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Mike Collett-White