Renault-Nissan plans cautious steps into post-sanctions Iran

The Renault-Nissan alliance is ready to expand its manufacturing footprint in Iran once sanctions are lifted, but will be "extremely careful" about the execution, chief executive of the French-Japanese collaboration Carlos Ghosn has said.

"Iran is a very promising market," Ghosn said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show on Monday. "Today it's more than one million cars; it has the potential to go to 1.5 or 2 million."

The rate of car ownership in Iran is just 100 per 1,000 people - six times less than in Europe - and consumers have had limited access to new vehicles since economic sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States prompted some automakers to leave the country.

The historic accord reached in July over Tehran's nuclear program opens the door to lifting sanctions. US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that the deal will be implemented in a matter of "days."

"We're ready to go, but we want to go in a way which is sustainable," Ghosn told reporters. "You don't want to go too precipitously and create for ourselves a bigger problem than we need.

''So I think yes, lots of potential in Iran, but still the timing is going to need to be politically correct and completely clear from a legal point of view."

An official with Pars Khodro had told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015 that the Renault was negotiating taking a minority stake in the state-owned automaker.

The official also said Renault was in talks to buy facilities like the auto factories of Pars Khodro parent Saipa. The Iranian sanctions strangled local production of Renault vehicles, which are assembled with imported parts.

Meanwhile, French rival PSA Peugeot Citroen - which left Iran in 2012 as a result of the sanctions -- is involved in "intense discussions" with its former partner Iran Khodro over creating a new joint enterprise. It signed an accord in October to distribute its luxury brand DS in Iran.