ⓘ Automotive industry in Serbia

Automotive industry in Serbia

ⓘ Automotive industry in Serbia

Serbias automotive industry is one of the most important industrial sectors and makes about 15% of industrial output of the country and 18% of all exports.


1. History

The Serbian automotive industry has its roots at very beginning of 20th century, when, in 1904, the industrial military complex Zastava creates a section dedicated to automobile repair and manufacture of certain parts.


1.1. History Yugoslav era

In 1939, Zastava began assembling Chevrolet trucks. Production came to end with the start of the Second World War. Until 1941, the factory in Kragujevac produced 400 Chevrolet military trucks and the automotive section of the Zastava industrial complex employed 12.000 workers.

In 1953, at the centenary of the company, Zastava signed a contract with Italian manufacturer FIAT to start the production several models under licence, including trucks, passenger cars, tractors and heavy-duty vehicles. In 1955 starts the production of what became the most popular model, the Zastava 750, which counted a total of 923.487 units produced. In 1965 Zastava starts exporting abroad. United States imported over 140.000 Zastava vehicles, sold as Yugos. In 1989 Zastava produced a record 230.570 units. All in all, Zastava produced over 4 million vehicles between 1953 and 2001, and exported to 74 countries, making Kragujevac the center of the automotive industry of Serbia and the entire Yugoslav federation. However, the facilities of the Zastava industrial complex were heavily damaged during the NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia in 1999.

Zastavas suppliers manufactured under strict, high-quality production standards that enabled them to work with other western car manufacturers such as Mercedes, Ford, Peugeot Citroen-PSA Renault, and Opel. This was also necessary to meet Yugoslav obstacles to importing fully-built-up cars. Zastava also assembled Fiats and various Fiats built in the Eastern Bloc for sale locally. Second-biggest manufacturer IMV manufactured Renaults replacing original Western partners Austin, NSU and BMW in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, Tvornica Automobila Sarajevo TAS built Volkswagens in Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cimos built Citroens in Koper, Slovenia, and fifth-placed IDA assembled Opels. Local assemblers had to form joint ventures with Western operators to sell their wares in Yugoslavia, usually exporting locally made parts in return for CKD kits. There was also a brief attempt by a company called Invest-Metali to assemble Peugeots in Pristina, Kosovo, starting with 750 cars delivered in 1985. This company seized trading in 1991 and it is unknown whether any more cars were assembled by them.

Although 211.522 cars were officially built in Yugoslavia in 1983, many were partially knocked down imports and some were misclassified imports. Full imports were officially only available to those who were able to pay entirely in hard currency, which limited such sales to a trickle. In 1984, fully built-up imports from the West excluding locally assembled cars represented less than 4 percent of the market. Although Japanese manufacturers Toyota and then Mitsubishi both entered the market on a limited scale in the first half of the 1980s, nearly all Western imports were of European brands. The number one selling import was the Fiat Uno, of which over 300 were sold in 1984.


1.2. History Post-Yugoslav era

Today, the automotive industry is one of the most prominent sectors in Serbia, accounting for almost 10% of the entire FDI stock in Serbia since 2000. 27 international investors have invested almost €1.5 billion in the sector, creating more than 19.000 jobs. The Serbian automotive industry supplies almost all major European and some Asian car manufacturers.

The manufacturing of vehicle chassis system parts, especially tires and suspension parts is the most prominent activity in the industry. Electrical system components are another dominant product group with car batteries and wiring installations as the most important products. Also, the production of engine components, mostly cast, is very significant, along with forged and machined parts like camshafts, brake discs, valves and flywheels.

Among these manufacturing companies are: Tigar Tyres, Leoni Wiring Systems Southeast, Yura Corporation, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company Serbia, Trayal Corporation and IGB Automotive.


2.1. Active manufacturers BIK

Bus industries Kragujevac BIK, in collaboration with Belorussian truck and bus manufacturer MAZ, began production by the late 2000s of gas-powered buses named BIK-203 which are based on the platform of the MAZ-203 model. These buses have been delivered to several Serbian towns to be in use in public transportation companies.


2.2. Active manufacturers FAP

In 1952 Fabrika automobila Priboj FAP was founded and a year later the first trucks were produced based on a licence from Saurer. First domestically designed vehicles where introduced in serial production by 1965. In 1970 a production, technical and financial cooperation contract was signed by FAP with Daimler-Benz. In 1978 FAP began its collaboration with the Military Technical Institute Belgrade and started developing and producing special military vehicles. Since the 2010-s, FAP has military oriented and heavily limited production.


2.3. Active manufacturers FCA Srbija

In 2008, FIAT entered a joint venture JV with the Republic of Serbia, creating what would become known as FCA Srbija. The JV extensively renovated and remodeled the former headquarters facility and assembly plant of Zastava Automobiles, and now manufactures the Fiat 500L, with an annual capacity of 85.000 cars as of 2016.


2.4. Active manufacturers Ikarbus

Ikarbus is a bus manufacturer based in Belgrade. The company was first founded in 1923 as "Ikarus A.D." to manufacture aircraft. After World War II the company was nationalised and two other Serbian aircraft manufacturers, Rogozarski and Zmaj aircraft, were merged into Ikarus. However, during the 1950s most of the personal and infrastructure of the aircraft factory were relocated to SOKO, and since then Ikarus has focused completely on bus production, first under licence, originally with Saurer and MAN designs, and later with the companys own. In 1992 the company was privatized, but due to a name dispute with Hungarian bus manufacturer Ikarus Bus, it changed name to Ikarbus.


2.5. Active manufacturers Zastava TERVO

Part of Zastava conglomerate company in Kragujevac, TERVO was formed on 1 September 2017 with all fixed and current assets of Zastava Trucks including most of its former employees. Produces terrain vehicles for military and civilian use and armored cabins and parts for military vehicles.


3.1. Defunct manufacturers IDA-Opel

IDA-Opel was a car manufacturer based in Kikinda which produced Opel models under license between 1977 and 1992. It produced 38.700 vehicles. The production was ended due to the start of the Yugoslav Wars and the imposition of UN economic sanctions to FR Yugoslavia.


3.2. Defunct manufacturers IMK 14. oktobar Krusevac

IMK 14. oktobar Krusevac was a company specialized in the production of heavy machinery and equipment. With its headquarters in Krusevac, it maintained production facilities in Varvarin, Brus and Razanj. The company was established and in 1923 and declared bankruptcy in January 2016.


3.3. Defunct manufacturers IMT

Industry of Machinery and Tractors IMT has produced tractors and agricultural machinery since the 1950s. It went into bankruptcy procedure in 2016. In April 2018, IMT was sold to TAFE. Production is reactivated in Jarkovac, as the Belgrade factory was excluded from sale.


3.4. Defunct manufacturers Neobus

Neobus was a bus manufacturer based in Novi Sad. Founded in 1952 as Autokaroserija, they cooperated closely with Slovenian manufacturer TAM. In 1992, with the independence of Slovenia, the cooperation ended and Autokaroserija became an independent bus manufacturer and changed its name to Neobus. In 2012 the Neobus went into bankruptcy.


3.5. Defunct manufacturers Zastava Automobiles

Group Zastava Vehicles with its main company Zatava Automobiles, is a Serbian car manufacturer founded in Kragujevac, SFR Yugoslavia in 1953 as a successor to a Yugoslavian truck manufacturer. After decades of manufacturing numerous passenger and commercial vehicles under licence from Fiat, in the 1980s Zastava started producing its own models, such as Yugo and Zastava Florida designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. They also assembled larger Fiats such as the 131 and Argenta for sale locally, as well as many Eastern European Fiat derivatives including Polski Fiat 126p, various Ladas, FSO 1500 and Polonez. The Zastava brand ended production in 2008 and in 2017 the company declared bankruptcy.

In 2008, Zastavas headquarters and assembly facilities were extensively renovated and modernized when they were assumed in a joint venture with the Republic of Serbia and Fiat, eventually becoming FCA Srbija.


3.6. Defunct manufacturers Zastava Trucks

The first vehicles to be built at Zastava were 400 Chevrolet trucks, which were built under license between 1939 and 1941 for the Royal Yugoslav Army. Then in 1953, 162 off-road vehicles with the trademark Willys were produced. But the marking point was when Zastava and FIAT signed an agreement in 1955 for building cars and trucks under license, beginning with the production of Fiat AR-51 Campagnola light trucks and off-road vehicles, followed by Fiat 1100TF vans. In the 1980s Iveco models were produced.

In September 2017, the Government of Serbia established Zastava TERVO, which took over Zastava Trucks production facilities.

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