Iran is moving towards technical independence with the launch of a new domestic automobile plant that will produce over 150,000 “homemade” cars every year and provide employment to over 23,000 people, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said.

The automobile plant, Saipa Car Manufacturing Company, the largest of its kind in the Middle East in terms of area, was inaugurated Sunday in Kashan city. It has been built at a cost of 4,000 billion rials ($400 million).

Ahmadinejad also unveiled the production line of Tiba, the first Iranian car entirely made and assembled in the country.

The president called on the country’s car manufacturers to improve the quality of domestically-made vehicles so that “if an Iranian wants to buy a vehicle, he must prefer homemade ones”.

Ahmadinejad said Iran “should reach a stage in auto industry to be classified among major car exporters in the world”.

The Iran Khodro Company (IKCO), the largest domestic car producer in the country, has already opened car plants in Syria, Belarus and Venezuela.