By Eleftheria Piperopoulou
At the beginning of the 90s, it was considered one of the most modern automotive industries in Europe, with… robots, modern systems and automation. And yet, in 1995, after producing a total of 170,000 cars, it closed. The reason for the former TEOKAR factory in Nik. I. Theocharakis SA in Volos.
Since then, various scenarios have been heard – from time to time – about its reactivation, without however being confirmed until today. A few years ago, after the signing of the “Letter of Intent for Cooperation” between Enterprise Greece and the company Next.e.GO for the manufacture of electric cars in Greece, it was at the center of discussions on where a production line for 30,000 vehicles per year. However, as Capital.gr is informed, the company never had contact to investigate the scene. At the same time, the specific investment seems to have “frozen”, as the German company announced that it will build a production unit in… Skopje.
Today, the plant operates a 6 MW photovoltaic energy production park.
But how was the model factory created and what happened to cause one of the largest factories in Greece to suddenly close its doors?
The beginning, the war and the arrival of Nissan
Nick’s story. I. Theocharakis SA starts in 1924. Then Nikolaos I. Theocharakis started a small personal automotive supply and liquid fuel business in Piraeus. A second store soon followed in Athens, when already before the start of the Second World War the company was the largest importer of automotive parts and articles in Greece. In 1937 Nick. I. Theocharakis founded a factory producing car brakes and upholstery, but it ceased operations due to the war.
After the war, the company extended its activities in the field of car tires and in 1957 acquired the exclusive Yokohama concession. 1961 was a pivotal year in the history of the Group, when Nikolaos Theocharakis, together with his two sons, Ioannis and Vasilios, took over the exclusive Nissan car dealership in Greece – the first official Nissan Motor Co. dealership in Europe. Meanwhile, in 1965, the sole proprietorship of Nikolaos Theocharakis was taken over by Nik. I. Theocharakis SA
The creation of TEOKAR and the projects of Volos
In 1976, Theocharakis family founded TEOKAR Ltd. and extends its activities to the production of vehicles. Initially, they manufactured boxcars for Datsun Pick-Up light trucks at a unit on Thivon Street in Aegaleo. In 1978, the company made a new start. Plans began for the construction of a large assembly plant in Volos and TEOKAR became a limited company.
At the time when the Theocharakis family proposes to Nissan the creation of an assembly plant in Greece, the Japanese manufacturer has 48 factories in the world, most of which are subsidiaries and only a few are independent. Moreover, the Greek market as such was small, but the Theocharakis family’s proposal offered Nissan the opportunity to secure its share of the wider European market, especially given the impending restrictions from the Union. European.
In January 1979, the factory facilities were located in the industrial zone of Volos, where the Renault-Peugeot car manufacturing plant was originally to be built. The choice of Volos for the construction of the assembly plant was no coincidence, because the city offered many advantages: it was an important port, which allowed the import of components from Japan, while being connected by national road and railway.
The plot had a total area of 264 acres, of which the plant occupied 16,500 m². Gradually, the facilities were expanded and the total area of the production areas covered reached 35,000 m².
Assembly began in February 1980 with the Datsun Pick Up 1600 one-ton light truck, soon followed by the Datsun Cherry passenger car. During the first year of operation, 4,685 cars were assembled.
TEOKAR’s facilities were constantly improved, thanks to the application of the latest technologies and Japanese production methods, while in 1986 the electro-welding of body parts was automated. Then, in the early 1990s, a robotic system was implemented.
In 1981, TEKOM was founded, whose facilities were erected next to the facilities of TEOKAR. The new plant manufactured the seats as well as the metal parts for the boxcars of the light trucks. Then in 1983, the entrepreneurs bought Kiihler, which made refrigerators. In high season, the three factories in Volos employed 660 people.
In subsequent years, production fluctuated between 10,000 and 11,000 units per year. In the early 1980s, production was the highest in the country and accounted for almost half of the output of the domestic automotive industry. During the 15 years of operation of the TEOKAR unit, a total of about 170,000 units were assembled, while the most popular cars were the Sunny and the simple Pick Up.
The proposal for a bigger factory and… Britain
In 1990, TEKOM was ranked among the 50 most profitable industries in the Greek economy. Moreover, TEOKAR, according to Nissan Japan, held the first place among all assembly plants operating in the world under the name of Nissan, and was the model.
In fact, in the early 1980s, Nissan had made a formal proposal to the Theocharakis family for the joint establishment of a larger assembly plant. However, Greek legislation discouraged the Japanese automaker, which instead teamed up with Britain and set up the large Sunderland plant.
The “clouds” and the end
However, despite the smooth running of these productive ventures, there was no shortage of problems. At the beginning of the 1990s, no other factory with a similar object to TEOKAR was no longer operating in Europe, since to be viable it had to produce at least 200,000 vehicles per year, an amount which, in reality, was unattainable.
In Greece, the cost of producing cars was high. Furthermore, the company addressed the limited Greek market, did not receive large government orders and did not export.
In addition, activity was affected by the unstable government policy regarding industrial production and car consumption. For example, in 1991-1992, the State enacted legislation concerning the withdrawal of old cars, but without notice, which did not allow TEOKAR to plan its production to meet the increase in demand, losing thus a significant share of the market.
Over the next few years there was a lull in the auto market and the company found itself with inventory it was unable to market. At the same time, the modification of excise duty rates in 1993 steered the Greek consumer towards cars of more or less engine capacity. All this gradually led to the decline of the factory and the definitive cessation of its activities in 1995.